January Happenings At the Smithsonian

Blow away winter blues with our recommended list of film, lectures, concerts and more

Smithsonian Museums

Whether you're a music lover, movie maven, civil rights warrior or yoga practitioner, January at the Smithsonian is sure to appeal. Check out these awesome, affordable (often free) events unfolding in and around the Smithsonian's D.C. museums over the weeks to come.

NSO Day of Music and Art at the National Portrait Gallery


National Portrait Gallery (Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard)

Spend your Saturday afternoon taking in the soothing strains of the National Symphony Orchestra, which will be playing to celebrate the intersections of portraiture and music-making. Educational activities will be on offer as well.

The Face of Battle Artist Talk


National Portrait Gallery

Hear photographer Louie Palu discuss the National Portrait Gallery’s sobering new exhibition on the human toll of America’s ongoing wars in the Middle East.

Yoga in Luce


Smithsonian American Art Museum (Luce Foundation Center, 3rd Floor)

Sign up online for a contemplative Vinyasa yoga session at the American Art Museum. Participants will meditate on artworks of their choosing for the duration of their stay. BYOM—Bring your own mat!

Film and Discussion: Chocolate City


Anacostia Art Center (1231 Good Hope Rd. SE)

The Washington, D.C.-set documentary Chocolate City (2007) will set the stage for a serious discussion on the dangers of gentrification campaigns and the power of community activism. Debra Frazier, who was intimately involved in the making of the film, will lead the dialogue.

Film and Discussion: Quality Control & Junkanoo Talk


African American History and Culture Museum (Oprah Winfrey Theater)

Focusing respectively on hard-working dry cleaners and the costume-makers that bring the Bahamian carnival of Junkanoo to life, these documentary films shed light on people of color whose achievements take place behind the scenes but who are nonetheless worthy of recognition. This is the U.S. premiere of Junkanoo Talk, so be sure to register in advance if you’re a lover of documentaries!

Iranian Film Festival

Series begins FRIDAY, JANUARY 12, 7 PM

Freer Gallery of Art (Meyer Auditorium)

Fancy yourself a connoisseur of foreign film? Be sure to catch some of the half-dozen Iranian movies scheduled for free screening at the Freer Gallery this January.

Artist Studio Tour


All over town—just catch the museum shuttle!

Register online to participate in this lovely Saturday sampling of D.C.’s local artistic talent. A museum bus will whisk registrants from one studio to another all across town, giving them a chance to take in creative work spaces and engage the artists in casual conversation.

Gallery Experience: “What Absence is Made Of” in ASL

SATURDAY, JANUARY 13, 3:30 – 4:30 PM

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (lobby)

Enjoy a speechless walkthrough of the Hirshhorn’s philosophically driven exhibition on the nature of negative space and emptiness more broadly. How do voids affect us as consumers of art? What can absence tell us about ourselves? Find out in this American Sign Language tour.

Smithsonian Consort of Viols

SATURDAY, JANUARY 13; pre-concert lecture at 6:30 PM, performance at 7:30

National Museum of American History (Hall of Music, 3rd Floor)

Take in the rich string sounds of seventeenth-century English composer John Jenkins at this event featuring the Smithsonian Consort of Viols. Tickets are available online.

The People’s Holiday


African American History and Culture (Heritage Hall, 1st and 2nd floors)

An assortment of child-friendly activities will be available as a live band plays touching tunes inspired by the life and outlook of Martin Luther King, Jr. Make a memorial button while you listen, or a celebratory flag!

12th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Walk & Parade

MONDAY, JANUARY 15, 12 – 1:30 PM

Begins at Anacostia Park (2500 MLK Ave. SE)

March for peace in memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. on the federal holiday dedicated to honoring his legacy.

King: A Filmed Record… Montgomery to Memphis


African American History and Culture Museum (Oprah Winfrey Theater)

This Oscar-nominated epic documentary tracks the life of Dr. King through the tumultuous timespan of 1955-1968. Stirring on-the-ground footage of King in action is mixed with retrospective commentary from figures as influential as James Earl Jones and Harry Belafonte.

When They Call You A Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir


African American History and Culture Museum (Oprah Winfrey Theater)

NPR’s Michael Martin will lead a topical talk with Black Lives Matter co-founders Patrice Khan-Cullors and asha bandele, who recently co-authored a memoir on their fight for justice in recent years. Not only will the book serve as a jumping-off point for the moderated dialogue—copies will also be available for purchase and signing afterwards.

Take 5! Mike “Bags” Davis Quintet Celebrates the Music of Cal Massey


National Portrait Gallery (Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard)

In a special two-hour performance at the National Portrait Gallery, Mike Davis and friends will be riffing on the music of famed jazz trumpeter Cal Massey, who would have turned 90 on this day. (Like many of the greats, he died too young, at 44 years old.) Expect a lively night on the courtyard.

Gallery Experience: The Gettysburg Cyclorama: 1880s Virtual Reality

FRIDAY, JANUARY 19, 12:30 – 1:30 PM

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (lobby)

Gary Adelman of the Civil War Trust will speak on the immersive art form known as cyclorama, which was wildly popular in the late 19th century and which served as the inspiration for African American artist Mark Bradford’s Pickett’s Charge—a massive, chaotic work of abstract art now on view at the Hirshhorn.

Aaron Sheehan Performs Schubert’s Winterreisse

SATURDAY, JANUARY 20; pre-concert lecture at 6:30 PM, performance at 7:30

National Museum of American History (Hall of Music, 3rd Floor)

Hear world-renowned tenor Aaron Sheehan perform Schubert’s seasonal classic Winterreisse to accompanying piano from Kenneth Slowick. Get your tickets while you can!

Frances Stark: The Magic Flute

THURSDAY, JANUARY 25, 6:30 – 8:30 PM

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (Ring Auditorium)

Experience Frances Stark’s innovative, stripped-down rendering of Mozart’s Magic Flute, then hear commentary on the work from D.C. music buff Ian Svenonius. Get your ticket online while supplies last!

ACM Urban Gardening Series: Master Gardeners East of the River


Anacostia Community Museum

Keen to take up horticulture but unsure of the particulars? Have no fear! A new speaker series at the Anacostia Community Museum will have you planting like a pro in no time. Remarks will focus on best practices and environmental sustainability.

Schubert and Schumann at the Smithsonian

SATURDAY & SUNDAY, JANUARY 27 – 28; lectures at 6:30 PM, performances at 7:30

National Museum of American History (Hall of Music, 3rd Floor)

Indulge in a 21-piece Schubert/Schumann marathon the weekend of January 27. The Smithsonian Chamber Music Society will be performing the assortment according to the innovative arrangements of Reinbert de Leeuw. Get your tickets online now!