A Day of Leisure at the Smithsonian

Erik Howley

Today we decided to take advantage of the beautiful spring weather and explore the city. We left around noon in our city style fits and walked to the National Mall. My group decided to rent bikes and get some exercise. We rode around the Mall, enjoying the fresh air and stunning views of the Capitol and the Washington Monument. We came upon an ice cream truck and decided to treat ourselves.

After biking some more, we headed over to the National Gallery of Art, and after consulting our maps we made our way to the modern art exhibit. On the way we rode in an elevator that was so big we were able to play a small game of tag in it. Inside the exhibit, we paused briefly to view Barnett Newman’s “Stations of the Cross,” but then the vibrant colors of the Mark Rothko exhibit caught our eye. One painting in particular, “Orange and Tan”, impressed us. Our art teacher, Angela, had talked about this painting in class and said that she was so moved by it that she cried. Rothko’s use of color and space is mesmerizing, and the sheer magnitude of the walls of color left us spellbound.

We continued our way through the rest of the exhibit, which included paintings by Picasso, Max Urnst, and other artists. Next up was the French impressionist exhibit, where we viewed works by some of the greatest artists of the nineteenth century. I marveled at Renoir’s skill and the beauty of his paintings, which featured dreamy, romantic scenes and figures from everyday life. We finished our visit with a trip through the Vincent Van Gogh exhibit, where we were all amazed at the intensity of emotion in his paintings.

It was a great day of biking, eating ice cream, and viewing art. We got a little exercise, ate a sweet treat, viewed some great art, and enjoyed a nice break from the rigors of interviewing public figures.

Erin Kavitsky

Today we visited several of the Smithsonian museums. My first impression of them is that they are much bigger than I imagined they would be. I have heard stories about how large the museums are and how many there are, but, as is the case with the memorials and monuments, their enormous scale took me by surprise. The shining glass dome of the Botanical Gardens caught my eye, and I was happy to wander over towards it with a group of friends. Walking through the huge first set of doors, I was surprised by how warm and humid it is inside. The fragrance of the beautiful flowers, combined with the warmth and humidity, gave the sensation of being wrapped in a blanket.

We walked through a second set of doors to enter the botanical garden itself, which features a little path running through the different sections of the garden. I appreciated that the garden doesn’t just feature plants from one region but from a number of different regions around the world, with each section sealed off by automatic sliding glass doors. If you are ever in DC and are wanting to visit the Smithsonian museums, I highly recommend including the botanical gardens as part of your visit. Even if, like me, you aren’t especially interested in plants, a trip to the gardens is an amazing experience.

Wyatt Adams

Today, a group of us visited the National Gallery of Art. Until today, I had not been a big fan of art, and what little art I do enjoy typically involves “real life” images of people, places, or objects. I’ve never enjoyed looking at abstract art. However, after visiting the museum today, my outlook on art has changed. 

The first exhibit we visited was the modern art exhibit. The exhibit included works by many famous artists, but the only artist I knew was Pablo Picasso. He was one of the founders of cubism, a form of art that uses geometric shapes to form broken and oddly figured images. Before going to the museum, I was not a fan of Picasso or cubism, but there was something about seeing the actual paintings that made me stop and say to myself, “Wow, I don’t understand this at all, but it’s kinda cool.” After viewing other cubist works, I decided that although I don’t particularly care for cubism, I do respect the artists and admire the complexity of the art.

We then looked at paintings from the Renaissance. Prior to visiting the museum, I thought that Renaissance art was cool looking, but I didn’t like that they all have a similar “feel.” Much of the art is religious in nature, so it gets a little repetitive for me. However, when I saw the paintings in person I was genuinely impressed. I didn’t realize until I viewed them that the canvases were anywhere from three to ten feet tall. I was amazed to think about how someone could paint something that big without a photo to look at while painting. Despite the religious themes of the paintings, I really enjoyed looking at their impressive detail and vivid colors.