A Grand Tour of the Solar System and More Programs in April

Smithsonian Associates offers a rich collection of curated programs this month

A solar flare erupting from the sun in deep space.
Smithsonian Associates’ Grand Tour of the Solar System series treks to the Sun and the four inner terrestrial planets before traveling outward to the asteroid belt, four Jovian planets, and beyond. The first session will be held on Zoom on Tuesday, April 18. NASA/JPL

Smithsonian Associates offers innovative, online and in-person programming that promotes learning, enrichment and creativity for people of all ages. Hundreds of seminars, studio arts classes and study tours are offered annually. To view the Smithsonian Associates digital program guide, visit

Saturday, April 1

Jazzed About Art: Jazz Appreciation Month: To kick off the annual worldwide celebration of jazz, the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra offers a soundtrack filled with rhythm, texture and color as it showcases the work of prominent 20th–century visual artists including William Sharp, John Fenton and Romare Bearden. Works by Dizzy Gillespie, McKinney's Cotton Pickers and Sun Ra are among the musical selections. This program will be held in person at the National Museum of Natural History from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. $20-$25

Monday, April 10

The Geology of Western National Parks: Zion and Bryce, Utah: Join geologist Kirt Kempter as he explores the geology of Western National Parks over the course of 2023, with an in-depth look at one location every month. This program spotlights the Zion and Bryce National Parks in Utah. This program will be held online from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET. $25-$30

Wednesday, April 12

Art Crimes: Stolen Secrets of the Third Reich: Expert on art fraud, author and former FBI agent Robert Wittman draws from his book The Devil’s Diary: Alfred Rosenberg and the Stolen Secrets of the Third Reich to recount his 2013 recovery of the long-lost private diary of the Nazi Party’s chief ideologue, who laid the philosophical foundations for the Holocaust. Rosenberg’s diary had been lost for more than 60 years and its long-hidden contents offer first-person insights into the Nazi rise to power, the genesis of the Final Solution and Germany’s brutal occupation of the Soviet Union. This program will be held online from 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET. $20-$25

Naturalist Matt Felperin gives a close-up look at Warblers, one of the neotropical birds that temporarily makes their home in North America to breed, during an online program on Wednesday, April 12. Matt Felperin

Close-up on Warblers: Birding fans are familiar with year-round feathered friends such as northern cardinals and blue jays, but there’s a secret world of neotropical birds that temporarily make their home in North America. Migrating hundreds of miles overnight, these warblers look for any suitable habitat to drop into as dawn approaches. Join naturalist Matt Felperin to learn more about why these birds undertake such a dangerous journey, how to find them in the wild—and enjoy some fantastic warbler photographs. This program will be held online from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET. $25-$30

Thursday, April 13

Introduction to American Art: From the glorious vistas of American landscape painting to the bold splashes and strokes of Abstract Expressionism, American artists have captured the nation’s enormous energy and tumultuous growth. In a five-session afternoon course, art historian Bonita Billman introduces major artists and movements in American painting from the late 18th century to the present, revealing the connections between historical changes and artistic choices. Enrolled participants in the Smithsonian World Art History Certificate program earn 1/2 credit. This program will be held online from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET. $85-$95

In all-day seminar on Saturday, April 15, China scholar Robert Daly traces China’s 21st-century drive for wealth, power and status to beliefs, geographic influences and social and cultural practices rooted in its earliest dynasties. Smithsonian Associates

Saturday, April 15

Traditional Roots of Modern China: How an Ancient Worldview Drives Today’s Foreign Policy: The relationship between the United States and China has never been easy. Currently, Beijing and Washington view each other with profound distrust and both sides are planning for conflict even as they say they hope to avoid it. China scholar Robert Daly traces China’s 21st-century drive for wealth, power, and status to beliefs, geographic influences, and social and cultural practices rooted in its earliest dynasties. This seminar will be held online from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET. $80-$90

Monday, April 17

How Culture Works: Driven by the Intersection of Peoples: Two faculty members of Harvard University, Martin Puchner, a professor of English and comparative literature, and Maya Jasanoff, a professor of history, converse on how humanity has sought to understand and transmit to future generations the meaning and purpose of our existence, as expressed in art, architecture, religion and philosophy. This program will be held online from 12 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET. $20-$25

Curating a Life: Art as Memoir: Keep a visual-thinking journal and learn to see like an artist and create personally meaningful works of art in terms of form, theme and context. During a y-session afternoon course, use text, images and newly developed visual thinking skills to create a “memoir museum”—a handmade map that traces where you’ve been in your life and where you have yet to explore. This program will be held online from 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. ET. $225-$255

Tuesday, April 18

The Sun: Front and Center (A Grand Tour of the Solar System): The Sun, the 4.5-billion-year-old star at the center of the solar system, is the glue that holds it together, and its activity provides a protective bubble that shields the planets from damaging galactic radiation. Astrophysicist and cosmologist Hakeem Oluseyi shines a light on this special star. This program is part of a three-part series presented in partnership with George Mason University Observatory. It will be held online from 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. ET. $25-$30

Meet Emmy-nominated Mexican chef Pati Jinich in person at the Smithsonian’s S. Dillon Ripley Center on Wednesday, April 19.   Smithsonian Associates

Wednesday, April 19

Pati Jinich: La Frontera: In her PBS Primetime docuseries “La Frontera,” Mexican chef Pati Jinich uses food as the vehicle to explore the culture and people along the border of the United States and Mexico, sharing meals with locals from all walks of life and reflecting on the melding of cultures. Join her in person for a screening of an episode from the second season, “La Frontera: The Everchanging Borderlands,” which debuts this spring, followed by a conversation with Lori Lizarraga, co-host of NPR’s Code Switch, focusing on the creation of the series and what she discovered traveling in both countries. This program will be held at the Smithsonian’s S. Dillon Ripley Center from 6:45 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Taking Better Photos: In a three-session evening online course, learn to develop your photographic vision and take better photos by learning a more deliberate approach to composition, balance, lighting conditions, and "keeping it simple.” This program will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. ET. $125-$145

Saturday, April 22

From Coronation to Committal: Traditions and Ceremonies that Shape the British Monarchy: In September 2022, the world watched the pageantry of Queen Elizabeth II’s state funeral, including the committal ceremony, during which the emblems of royalty were taken from her coffin and placed on the altar. In May. the coronation of King Charles III and his wife, Camilla, will be celebrated. Tudor scholar Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger explores the protocols and traditions that continue the monarchy from one individual to the next. This program will be held online from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET. $30-$35

Monday, April 24

Introduction to Chalk Pastels: Chalk pastels can be used to create dynamic artworks in any genre: portrait, still life, abstract or landscape. In a three-session online course, techniques are demonstrated, and various types of chalk pastels, how to combine them with other media, their history and proper storage are discussed. This program will be held online from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. ET. $135-$155

The Supreme Court’s Role in Our Constitutional Democracy: Recent years have seen increasing controversy around the Supreme Court—contentious appointments, divisive opinions and even leaks from inside. Kermit Roosevelt, a constitutional law professor, former Supreme Court clerk, and member of President Biden’s Supreme Court Reform Commission, assesses the court’s role in our democratic system, the forces driving the recent controversies, and what, if anything, we can do to make things better. This program will be held online from 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET. $20-$25

Tuesday, April 25

Isabella Stewart Gardner: A Global Vision of Art: Isabella Stewart Gardner assembled an extraordinary collection of art from diverse cultures and eras and built a Venetian-style palazzo in Boston to share her exquisite treasures with the world. Diana Seave Greenwald, assistant curator of the collection at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, shines new light on Gardner as a trailblazing patron and collector who created a museum unprecedented in its curatorial vision. She also discusses how Gardner’s far-flung journeys to fill that museum—recorded in her exquisitely crafted collaged travel albums—reveal the global influences of this legendary collector. Enrolled participants in the Smithsonian World Art History Certificate program earn 1/2 credit. This program will be held online from 6:45 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET. $20-$25

Mario Livio on What Makes Us Curious: Curiosity drives basic scientific research, is the engine behind creativity in all disciplines and provides a necessary ingredient in every form of storytelling. Astrophysicist Mario Livio interprets cutting-edge research in psychology and neuroscience that explores the origin and mechanisms of human curiosity. His own curiosity on the topic led him to interview linguist Noam Chomsky and the virtuoso lead guitarist of the rock band Queen, Brian May (who holds a Ph.D. in astrophysics). This program will be held online from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET. $25-$30

Wednesday, April 26

Alcatraz: 250 Years on the Rock: Alcatraz is America’s most notorious island, and its most misunderstood. Former National Park ranger and historian John Martini uncovers its fascinating multilayered history, including the island’s infamous past as a federal penitentiary, its role in American popular culture (especially the movies); the evolution of Alcatraz as a National Park site; its now-resurgent natural life; and the challenges of preserving its aging infrastructure. This program will be held online from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET. $20-$25

Get a glimpse into the exhilarating adventures of a field botanist during Smithsonian Associates program, “Chasing Plants,” on Thursday, April 27. Chris Thorogood

Thursday, April 27

Chasing Plants: Chris Thorogood clambers over cliffs and up erupting volcanoes and treks through typhoons—it’s just part of the job for this field botanist. He shares details of hair-raising excursions, brings his travels to life with his vivid paintings and explains the vital work he and other botanists are doing to protect the world’s plants. This program will be held online from 12 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET. $20-$25

Sunday, April 30

Ever-Green Vietnamese Cooking: Starring Plants from Land and Sea: Although many people think of Vietnamese cooking as beefy pho and meat-filled sandwiches, traditional Vietnamese cooking has always involved a lot of plants and seafood and a little meat. James Beard Award–winning author Andrea Nguyen explores where plant-based cooking meets the dynamic flavors of Vietnamese cuisine in her new book Ever-Green Vietnamese. Join her as she reveals how cooks in her home country draw on their natural resourcefulness and Buddhist traditions to showcase a wide array of herbs and vegetables in flavorful, comforting dishes. Afterward, enjoy light bites provided by chef Kevin Tien of D.C.’s modern Vietnamese restaurant Moon Rabbit. This program will be held at the Smithsonian’s S. Dillion Ripley Center from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. ET. $30-$35

To view the Smithsonian Associates digital program guide, visit