Arts & Entertainment

Arts & Entertainment, Special Feature

A Brief History of the Artificial Poppy

By Lani Gering Each year around Memorial Day, Veterans of Foreign Wars members and American Legion Auxiliary volunteers distribute millions of bright red poppies in exchange for contributions to assist disabled and hospitalized veterans. The program provides multiple benefits to the veterans and to the community. The hospitalized veterans who make the flowers are able to earn a small wage, which helps to supplement their incomes and makes them feel more self-sufficient. The physical and mental activity provides many therapeutic benefits as well. Donations are used exclusively to assist and support veterans and their families. The poppy also reminds the community of the past sacrifices and continuing needs of our veterans. The poppy has become a nationally known and recognized symbol of sacrifice and is worn to honor the men and women who served and died for their country in all wars. In the World War I battlefields of Belgium, poppies grew wild amid the ravaged landscape. How could such a pretty little flower grow wild while surrounded by death and destruction? The overturned soils of battle enabled the poppy seeds to be covered, thus allowing them to grow and to forever serve as a reminder of the bloodshed during that and future wars. Madam Guerin, who was recognized as “the poppy lady from France”, sought and received the cooperation of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. early in 1922, after the Franco-American Children’s League was dissolved. The VFW conducted a poppy sale prior to Memorial Day, 1922, using only poppies that were made in France. In the 1923 poppy sale, due to the difficulty and delay in getting poppies from France, the VFW made use of a surplus of French poppies that were on hand and the balance was provided by a firm in New York City…

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Arts & Entertainment, Gallery Beat

Sam Gilliam Museum Show: About Time!

By F. Lennox Campello Over the decades that I have lived in the DMV (an acronym that I invented decades ago in several meandering posts in my blog DC ART NEWS, which by the way… is now the 11th highest ranked art blog on this planet – yay!), one constant fact of the region’s museum art scene (with the notable exception of the beautiful American University art museum and most recently the Phillips Collection) has been the immense apathy that art museums located in the capital region show to their area artists. DC art museums think of themselves as “national” museums, and are not, and have not ever been, part of a “regional/local” art scene. Once, while a guest at the old Kojo Nmandi radio show on NPR (WAMU), I noted that it was “easier for a DC area museum curator to take a cab to Dulles to catch a flight to Berlin to visit some emerging artists’ studios in Berlin (or London, Madrid, wherever) than to catch a cab to Adams Morgan to visit a DC area emerging artist studio.” Years of communicating this frustration to “new” museum curators and directors as the wander in and out of their positions at the Hirshhorn, the old Corcoran, various Smithsonian museums, most area University museums, etc. have yielded zero response — since 1992 or so, the only museum director who ever met with me to discuss why their museum ignored local artists was Olga Viso when she ran the Hirshhorn decades ago. And it takes an artist of the immense stature and presence of Sam Gilliam, whose career was almost extinguished by apathy just a decade or so ago… but was kept moving forward through the hard work of legendary DC area gallerist Marsha Mateyka, until Gilliam’s work was “rediscovered” by…

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Arts & Entertainment, Last Word

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Dubois

Miriam Kramer Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, author of five poetry collections and recipient of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for Poetry, transitioned to writing fiction in releasing The Love Songs of W.E.B. DuBois, a National Book Critics Circle Book of the Year winner. This absorbing and compulsively readable story sprawls across the painful, mixed history of native American, African-American, and white settlement in Georgia. Jeffers mixes in the musings of the twentieth-century African-American intellectual W.E.B. DuBois and the personal and intellectual growth of her main character, Ailey Pearl Garfield, a young, educated Black woman navigating the juxtaposition of white and Black worlds. Ailey grows into her destiny in the late twentieth century and beyond, as she uncovers the tangled worlds of her past. Born in the Seventies, independent, youngest sister Ailey; middle sister Coco; and older sister Lydia grow up the daughters and granddaughters of doctors. They transition between an unnamed urban area simply called “the City,” and vacations to her mother’s ancestral home of Chicasetta, Georgia, where her grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-uncle Root live on a farm. They coexist distantly and uneasily with the white branch of her family, which intermittently shows them a combination of decency and prejudice. Both family lines are descended from a slave owner named Pinchard, representing fully their painful, inextricably intertwined past. Growing up in an educated household, the daughters do not escape the problems inherent in a modern society’s, and sometimes in particular a modern Black world’s, structure. Coco is brilliant, gay, and closeted, and beautiful Lydia suffers from drug abuse. Despite a loving, solid upbringing, they suffer from sexual abuse and one snobbish grandmother’s internalized racism, as she most highly prizes the lightest-skinned members of the family. As Jeffers sets up her story of Ailey’s growth into Black womanhood, she…

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Arts & Entertainment, High Notes

Stranger Days by Skegss

By Ron Powers Mother’s Day is just around the corner, spring has sprung, flowers have bloomed, and great music is being created. This time of year brings so much new life with it and I recently found some of that life in a happy ballad called “Stranger Days” by Australian Indie rockers Skegss. This song offers the perfect amount of emotion and inspiration without sounding cheesy. Skegss delivers a clean yet tough sound with garage-rock imperfection that allows the soul of the song to shine through. No time is wasted in getting straight to the verse of “Stranger Days”. The first thing we hear is a shuffle rhythm and chord progression performed with a clean electric guitar and acoustic guitar. These two elements combine to create a smooth yet bracing texture for the melancholy yet sunny feeling topline. Singer Ben Reed delivers the relatable lines, “Stranger days will keep on comin’ / My brain’s changed but it’s still runnin’ / I get fazed and in the end it’s nothin’”. Next Skegss shifts from the airy open textures of the verse to a tight and thumping pre-chorus. Here we have a simple arrangement of palm-muted guitar chords with bass guitar following the chord roots with an eighth note rhythm. Drummer Jonny Lani completes the musical arrangement with a simple beat that mixes with the bass to create a head-bobbing groove with just the right amount of tension. Despite the high contrast between the verse and pre-chorus musical arrangements, the vocal melody maintains the emotional flow and shifts seamlessly between sections allowing for a dynamic experience without jolting the listener. As the pre-chorus draws to a close singer Ben Reed delivers the line “and may your dreams never die”. The last syllable of this line is sustained and carried on into the…

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Arts & Entertainment, Events

Alexandria Events – May 2022

Main Attractions! 2nd Annual Alexandria Old Town Springtime Art Festival May 14th & 15th 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission: Free John Carlyle Square 300 John Carlyle Street thecarlylecommunity.com The Annual Alexandria Old Town Art Festival is heading back to John Carlyle Square in 2022. All artwork is juried, which provides a higher level of quality, diversity and creativity of art on display, exemplifying the gifted artists in regions from all over the country. The show is rated as one of the top 100 art shows in Sunshine Artist Magazine. Please be mindful and follow all CDC guidelines. The Old Town Festival of Speed & Style May 22nd 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission: Free 200-400 blocks of King Street 100 blocks of N. Royal and N. Fairfax Streets festivalspeedstylealex.com The Old Town Festival of Speed & Style, presented by Burke & Herbert Bank, highlights the unique offerings of the Old Town community—history, architecture, great food, fabulous people, art, style and energy. All proceeds benefit USO Washington-Baltimore and ALIVE! View dozens of rare and exotic cars up close, made famous by their speed, performance and elegance. This will be enhanced by a presentation of style, fashion and live music provided by over 40 local merchants. ​ More Spring Events & Tours First Thursday in Del Ray May 5th 6 p.m. Admission: Free Various locations in Del Ray in Alexandria visitdelray.com First Thursday is a series of free outdoor street festivals that bring the community together around a fun theme, benefiting a local non-profit. The May theme is Dog Days in Del Ray. Be sure to bring your pooch. Secret Garden Concert Series at The Rectory on Princess Street Various Dates through June 23rd 5 and 6:30 p.m. Admission: $25 to 45 per person The Rectory 711 Princess Street 703-683-6040 classicalmovements.com Classical…

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Arts & Entertainment, Gallery Beat

Hand Crafted at The BlackRock Center

By F. Lennox Campello The BlackRock Center for the Arts in Germantown is just far enough from the capital region so as to not “officially” be part of the DMV.  It is nonetheless a key member of the cultural tapestry of the Mid-Atlantic region and one can always count with a strong exhibition program in its beautiful galleries. Through April 15 there’s a fascinating group show curated by Rula Jones, the current gallery director.  Titled “HAND CRAFTED”, the show is described as “a group exhibition that explores the role of craftsmanship in contemporary art and across a variety of media including wool, ceramic, glass, paper, fiber, porcelain, etc.” This group exhibition features over 55 multimedia works by 23 artists from the Mid-Atlantic region. If you are a constant reader, then you know that I am a strong proponent of craftsmanship in the visual arts – there’s no substitute for developing the skill to draw, paint, etch, sculpt, etc.  And there’s no shortcut – it is all practice, learning from errors, learning how to use your errors, and learning when to stop. The exhibition’s curator Rula Jones notes that, “Concept and craftsmanship, the latter defined as strong knowledge of material manipulation, have occasionally been oppositional in modern and contemporary art. However, these works show high levels of artistry and skill, while also presenting very strong purpose and theory. Artists in this exhibition use materials often associated with craft and elevate them through contemporary concerns. The works on view address a variety of both universal and contemporary issues including loss, identity, the environment, humanity and nature through a variety of media including ceramic, glass, fiber, wool, silk, beads, paper, porcelain etc. This exhibition celebrates the diversity of theory, process and materiality in contemporary art, suggesting that the boundary between craft and fine…

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Arts & Entertainment, Last Word

Jack Reacher’s Chaos Control

By Miriam R. Kramer What do you read when a terrible war takes over television and social media, horrifying you and making you feel helpless to do anything to change the situation? As I sat down to write, I suddenly realized that my reading this past month has been pushed in a very unusual direction by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which started on February 24. Assuredly some mental relief has arrived in reading all the Jack Reacher books written by Lee Child. An action series like this is not my typical choice. Yet as a speed reader, I compulsively swept through Child’s many books because of the way their themes, tone, and structure come together in easily read works suitable for beach vacations or airplanes. Mostly aimed at men, these muscular books, and Jack Reacher the flawed hero, provide satisfying and instinctive solutions to difficult problems. Jack Reacher is a loner, the star of this long-running show. As a military brat and a former member of the Army Military Police, he has had a peripatetic international upbringing, with a French mother, a brother, and a Marine father who moved multiple times to bases around the world. Mostly called Reacher, he has few close friends and no living relatives in most of the books and short stories. He is an army of one, with his own strongly instilled code of conduct and an unyielding, vigilante sense of justice. In attending multiple schools growing up, along with training for the military, he learned to fight bullies hard and dirty to win at all costs. At 6’5” and 250 lbs., he can confront and dispatch predators with great ease. As the founder of the Army Military Police, 110th MP Special Investigations, he serves in a very unpopular part of the Army, but one…

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Arts & Entertainment, High Notes

Piano Jam 5 (Ode to Kygo) by GH Hat

By Ron Powers The word enigma is defined as “a person or thing that is mysterious, puzzling, or difficult to understand”. It’s also an accurate description of an artist I’ve been fascinated with since he first hit the music scene back in 2016. G.H. Hat is a multi-genre producer, remixer, composer, and performer. Over the years, he has strung together one of the most interesting and unpredictable bodies of work I’ve ever seen. He’s charted on Billboard multiple times for his pop/dance club/EDM music. He’s remixed and released a Gobsmacking 290 classical compositions. Additionally, his EDM instrumentals have had a huge impact, and he’s essentially forged a new musical genre with his enthralling series of piano jams. As other reviewers have noted “G.H. Hat’s creative process has evolved into one of the most highly regarded sounds on the market” and “The way he utilizes the benefits of modern production software puts his skill on par with that of a classical composer”. I recently was granted access to an advanced copy of GH Hat’s latest installment in his piano-jams series. The song is called “Piano Jam 5 (Ode to Kygo)” and I’m excited to share my thoughts with you about it here. “Piano Jam 5” is an instrumental that begins with a single kick drum and crash cymbal accompanied by a reversed piano chord that swells into a solitary bass line. The bass line delivers a tough and steady feeling while dashes of lead guitar and pick slides are sprinkled in. As one writer accurately put it while referring to G.H. Hat’s music, “It’s almost impossible to listen … and not feel energized after”. Additionally, we hear a descending piano melody that shimmers and mingles with the bass and guitar. G.H. then picks up the pace by adding percussive synth notes…

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Arts & Entertainment, Events

Alexandria Events

April 2nd– May 1st  Torpedo Factory Cherry Blossom Events 105 N. Union Street 703-746-4590 Torpedofactory.org  Cherry Blossom Exhibition Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Art lovers are encouraged to stop by the Torpedo Factory Art Center throughout April to view floral art displayed on all three floors. Masks are required for all visitors regardless of vaccination status. April 10th  Cherry Blossom Jubilee 12 to 3 p.m. Kick off the celebrations at noon with a live performance by taiko drum group Nen Daiko on the waterfront side of the Art Center all while enjoying music and live art demonstrations from participating artists. New Art Installation On the Waterfront! I Love You On display through November Admission: Free Waterfront Park 1A Prince Street visitalexandriava.com/public-art I Love You, the latest temporary art installation on Old Town Alexandria’s waterfront is a luminous declaration of affection from the city to the public, creating a photo-ready postcard of Alexandria which represents the city’s welcoming spirit and a message of hope through the COVID-19 pandemic. Created by award-winning and globally recognized R & R STUDIOS, I Love You is a plaza with the words “I Love You” scripted in rose-hued metal and lighted neon standing 15 feet high above a pink ground mural emulating a giant “magic carpet.” This “social sculpture” utilizes three words at once universal and utterly personal to establish a place of encounter, friendship and camaraderie on the river. Miami-based R & R Studios is helmed by husband-and-wife Argentinian-born, American architects Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt. I Love You is the fourth installation of the City of Alexandria’s annual temporary public art series, “Site See: New Views in Old Town.” 2nd ALX Dog Walk check-in from 7 to 7:45 a.m.; walk from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Admission: Regular registration: $35; Teens ages 13 to…

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Arts & Entertainment, Events

Alexandria Cherry Blossom Experiences

Nothing is more symbolic of springtime in the D.C. region than cherry blossoms. This year, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the fluffy pink and white wonders in Alexandria, VA. Take a stroll along Old Town Alexandria’s picturesque streets lined with cherry blossoms and flowering trees and enjoy food and drink specials available for in-person dining or takeout. See the D.C. cherry blossoms from a Potomac River perch with high-speed water taxi tours or take a bike ride to the Tidal Basin. New this year, enjoy special cherry blossom-themed workshops at just-opened Shop Made in VA, and sip seasonal coffee from brand-new Turkish Coffee Lady. Don’t forget to check out highly anticipated return of The National Cherry Blossom Festival from March 20 to April 17, 2022. Find events that honor both American and Japanese cultures, such as the Torpedo Factory Art Center’s Cherry Blossom Jubilee. Learn more about cherry blossom experiences in Alexandria at VisitAlexandriaVA.com/CherryBlossoms and find a list of cherry blossom tours, special events and food and drink offerings.   Beginning March 18th Water Taxi to the Wharf to See Cherry Blossoms Departures beginning at 12 p.m.; check website for details Admission: Starting at $23 one-way; $39 round-trip for adults Alexandria Marina 1 Cameron Street 888-809-7109 cityexperiences.com/alexandria Wednesdays through Mondays, beginning March 18th, cruise from Old Town Alexandria to Washington, D.C., to enjoy the famous cherry blossoms from the water. City Cruises anchored by Hornblower offers a 25-minute direct water taxi from Old Town to The Wharf development in D.C. From the dock at The Wharf, it is a 10-minute walk to the cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin. The water taxi docks at the Transit Pier, 950 Wharf St. SW, near the Tidal Basin, the National Mall, Hains Point and a Capital Bikeshare station.   Beginning March 19th Washington Monuments Cruise to the Cherry Blossoms Saturdays and Sundays Departures beginning at 11:30 a.m.; check website for details Admission: Starting at $26 one-way; $42 round-trip for adults Alexandria Marina 1…

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