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Washington DC’s Top 10 Art and Culture Events in Summer 2014
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Washington DC’s Top 10 Art and Culture Events in Summer 2014

Picture of Graziano Scaldaferri
Updated: 9 February 2017
What can Washington DC, the heart of American politics, offer for cultural entertainment? A lot, it turns out. Besides the Capitol, the city is home to many excellent museums with exhibitions that won’t disappoint art lovers, as well as crowd-attracting music, film and cultural festivals. The 4th of July celebrations remain, however, the high point of Washington’s summer. Find out 10 of the best of Washington DC’s unmissable cultural events here.
Washington DC
© KP Tripathi/Flickr


DC Jazz Festival

24 – 29 June, 2014

There’s a happy place for jazz lovers in Washington, and it is the annual, five-day-long DC Jazz Festival. The largest music festival in the city, DC Jazz marches closer with every year to ranking among the most prestigious festivals of the kind in the US and beckons some of the best jazz players from around the world to please swarms of aficionados with an outstanding programme of 125 performances. This year, DC Jazz Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary with amazing musicians like The Brass-A-Holics, Paquito D’Rivera, Dizzy Gillespie and Helen Sung. Among the most anticipated events is Brubeck Reimagined, a concert in tribute to the great American jazz player Dave Brubeck by pianist Cyrus Chestnut and his quartet.

DC Jazz Festival will be held in various locations across Washington, DC.


National Independence Day

4 July, 2014

No other American city feels National Independence Day as strongly as its capital city, Washington, the cradle of the United States’ most important institutions. Here, 4th of July festivities begin in the morning with the parade of marching bands and military units down Constitution Avenue, saluted by hundreds of thousands of cheering patriots; and proceed throughout the day on the National Mall — the world-famous park hosting the US Capitol, the Washington Monument obelisk and the Lincoln Memorial — with the celebration of multi-ethnic America through the Smithsonian Folklife Festival (see above). At night, a live concert by the National Symphony Orchestra is traditionally held on the park’s West Lawn; celebrations wrap up with the commanding, large display of fireworks launched right above the National Mall.

National Mall, Washington, DC, USA


Made in the USA (The Phillips Collection)
Arthur G. Dove, Red Sun, 1935 / The Phillips Collection | © The Estate of Arthur G. Dove, Courtesy Terry Dintenfass, Inc.

Made in the USA (The Phillips Collection)

Open until 31 August, 2014

From 2010 to 2013, a travelling exhibition of the seminal pieces of American art culled from the holdings of The Phillips Collection museum made stops in Italy, Spain, Japan, and in various US cities. The pieces are now on display in the very premises of The Phillips Collection — the first American museum of modern art established in 1921 — for a curated exhibition titled Made in the USA. The show brings together masterpieces made between 1850 and 1970 by the likes of Winslow Homer, Georgia O’Keeffe, Willem de Kooning and Alexander Calder, and outlines the thrilling path that led to the rise of American modern art, with particular emphasis on the works of the Abstract Expressionists.

The Phillips Collection, 1600 21st St, NW Washington, DC, USA, +1 202 387 2151


Degas / Cassatt (NGA)

Open until 5 October, 2014

A new, surprising exhibition at Washington DC’s National Gallery of Art reveals the artistic affinities between Impressionist painters Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt. A Frenchman and an American respectively, Degas and Cassatt met in 1877 in Paris, an encounter that marked the beginning of a lifelong friendship. But there was more to bond the two artists than their personal relationship. As the show at the NGA demonstrates, both Degas and Cassatt were interested in painting the human figure and urban life, while less enticed by natural landscapes. The two shared a similar artistic sensibility that made the one a trusted advisor for the other and vice versa.

National Gallery of Art, 6th and Constitution Ave, NW Washington, DC, USA, +1 202 737 4215

Safeway Barbecue Battle

21 – 22 June, 2014

Although the barbecue is the quintessence of southern US cooking, Washington has been hosting one of the best celebrations of barbecuing for 22 years with the Safeway Barbecue Battle. For this unmissable event, some of the best restaurants from the whole country gather in the capital and engage in compelling cooking competitions – the most important, the Safeway’s National Barbecue Championship, awards a resounding $40,000 in cash and prizes. Visitors are also sure to have a great time, especially when joining the sampling pavilion: here, they can enjoy samples of the delicious food prepared by the participating restaurants for free. In addition, the crowds of gourmets will be entertained by 30 bands playing live on three different stages.

Safeway Barbecue Battle, Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC, USA,+1 202 828 3099


Modern American Realism (Smithsonian)

Open until 17 August, 2014

In the 1950s, while the attention of most American art criticism was focused on abstract and expressionist artists, private collector Sara Roby went the opposite way and started acquiring the less regarded Realist paintings. This choice would prove farsighted: today American Realism is much better appreciated than it was at the time. The exhibition Modern American Realism, now open in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, presents the finest pieces in the Sara Roby Foundation’s collection, giving a comprehensive and insightful overview of American Realism through the works of painters like Edward Hopper, Paul Cadmus, Arthur Dove, Wolf Kahn and Nancy Grossman.

Smithsonian American Art Museum, 8th and F, NW Washington, DC, USA, +1 202 633 1000

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

25 – 29 June, and 2 – 6 July, 2014

Sponsored annually by the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival is an eclectic event which every year illustrates to the public the culture of a few American ethnic communities and their countries of origin. This is done through an array of different performances, including music and dance shows, crafts and cooking demonstrations, public talks, and more. After exploring the cultures of Hungary, Colombia, Mexico, Haiti, Oman, and many, many other countries from all around the globe over its previous editions (the festival was established in 1967). This year the nations at hand will be China and Kenya.

National Mall, Washington, DC, USA, +1 202 633 6440


Black Box: Oliver Laric (Hirshhorn Museum)

30 May – 5 October, 2014

Black Box is a series of exhibitions held at the Hirshhorn Museum since 2005, specifically designed to overcome the traditionally lengthy periods needed to prepare a canonical museum exhibition, and respond quickly to the fast developments in the international contemporary art arena. The latest installment in the series presents Oliver Laric, one of the most interesting artists right now. Through an ongoing body of work called Versions, Laric has been exploring for years the theme of authenticity and authorship in times when practices such as bootlegs, remixes, hybrids and digital reproductions in all cultural endeavours have been made extremely easy by Photoshop and other pieces of digital software.

Hirshhorn Museum, 700 Independence Ave, SW Washington, DC, USA, +1 202 633 4674


DC Shorts Film Festival

11 – 21 September, 2014

The short film is a cinematographic genre in and of itself and has a celebratory home in DC Shorts Film Festival. The largest of its kind on the East Coast, every year the festival draws thousands of film buffs for ten days of short films: the 2013 edition screened a total of 152 films from 21 different countries. In addition to the shorts, many of which this year are by Russian film-makers, the event also comprises a screenplay competition: six contestants, selected from all those who applied, will do a table reading of their screenplay, and the work most appreciated by the audience will be awarded with a cash prize that the winner can use to finance their next film.

Held in various locations across Washington, DC, USA.

Gardens & Groves

Open until 10 January, 2016

Not many know, but besides being a courageous general who won the American Revolution to become the First President of the United States, George Washington also proved to be an excellent garden designer. Between 1785 and 1787, during a break from public affairs, Washington retreated to his private residence in Mount Vernon, a plot of land just outside the city sporting a beautiful villa and magnificent surroundings. In those years, Washington dedicated much of his time to designing sweeping lawns, curving paths, walled gardens and other striking features that make Mount Vernon’s park an attraction not to be missed. The exhibition Gardens & Groves in Mount Vernon’s museum demonstrates Washington’s plans and devotion for the gardening works he carried out in his residence.

Donald W. Reynolds Museum at Mount Vernon, Mount Vernon, Washington DC, USA, +1 703 780 2000


By Graziano Scaldaferri