On our second day in Washington, DC, we had a full-day planned–this coming after an ultra-full day!
National Archives- Christina Perez
There is no better way to get up on a Sunday morning than heading out to see some of the most important documents in our democracy. The Leap Ambassadors set off to find the National Archives as we began our journey of a mile-long trek to see “national treasures.” The day was made more exciting by the chance to spend it with former Mayor Mac Woodward, a long-time friend of the Ambassadors.
Once at the National Archives, we stopped by a couple exhibits before getting to see the most important documents known to America. The first exhibit of archives included the 1297 copy of the Magna Carta, women’s suffrage documents, and many more historical milestones that changed the American society.
As we moved into the rotunda that housed three historical treasures in one room, we couldn’t decide where to walk first. As we looked north we saw the United States Constitution, to the west side was the Declaration of Independence, and to the East was The Bill of Rights.
Each of us took time admiring the documents and learn interesting facts about them. We were even lucky enough to see George Washington’s version of the Declaration of Independence which still contained his hand-written notes.
The adventure continued as we moved on to the National Gallery of Art
National Gallery of Art: West Building-Kaitlyn
The National Gallery of Art is arguably the most comprehensive collection of art in the county. The Gallery is so large it comprises two massive buildings and takes up an entire city block! We started our tour in the West Building. Composed mostly of thirteenth to sixteenth century art, the gallery exposed us to several European artists. All the LEAP Ambassadors have visited art museums, but we always reinforce artists and learn about the different genres of art. The National Gallery gave us the opportunity to learn again about the various styles of art throughout history.
One of the first exhibits we viewed were numerous sculptures by Edward Degas, a French artist famous for his dance sculptures.
Surprisingly, he had another specialty. He used an assortment of materials to build his sculptures such as wood, metal, nails, and beeswax. The beeswax was distinctive because it gave each sculpture a glossy tint that looked like water on the sculpture.
One of the most famous sculptures in history, The Thinker by Auguste Rodin, was on display in the Gallery.
Cast in 1901, the bronze sculpture was originally modeled after Dante from Dante’s Inferno. The sculpture has now become iconic as a masterpiece of art.
One of the most exciting sections of Gallery was the impressionist styles of art. The Gallery displayed three Vincent van Gogh paintings, including his famous Self Portrait painting!
It was exciting to see Van Gogh’s work in real life.
An additional highlight of the day included getting to see a Leonardo da Vinci painting! It was unique not only because it was a Da Vinci, but because the back side of the painting was also its own work of art with beautiful symbolism of the laurel and olive wreath. We were thrilled to see Da Vinci in real life, particularly knowing it is the only Da Vinci in North America.
Another big name we also saw was Rembrandt.
Scattered throughout the West Building, his work reappeared from room to room. His works were large in number and very expensive in price! Rembrandt is the most famous Dutch artist and his works consist mostly of portraits and self-portraits. He made large contributions to the Dutch Golden Age and used innovative techniques for art.
It would be impossible to write about each piece of art we saw during our whirlwind tour of the West Wing. Although we learned immensely about on the West side, we continued our journey next door to the East building of the National Gallery of Art.
After our quick lunch, we moved through the artistic connecting corridor….
and continued our art lesson in the East wing of the gallery which many of us called our favorite. We recognized more of the art pieces on this side of the gallery. We began with a big Alexander Calder mobile piece as the grand entrance to the east side.
Among the first paintings that we recognized were Georgia O’Keefe, Edward Hopper, and even Pablo Picasso! There was a lot of modern art, including our favorite artist represented in Marfa, Donald Judd.
Usually, the art was organized by artist. We got to see a whole exhibit of Mark Rothko paintings which was fun to see since it a new artist that the group is getting acquainted with.
We also had the opportunity to see Professor Yawn’s favorite artist (or one of them), Jackson Pollock.
Before leaving, we encountered 2 major surprises. One being a giant blue rooster sculpture called “Hahn/Cock” by Katharina Fritsch.
The second being, one of my personal favorite exhibits featuring work by Alexander Calder. I was first introduced to art by Alexander Calder on this trip and it is fun to be able to recognize his art in so many places.
National Museum of American History By Brian Aldaco
We took a break from the art of the Smithsonian by visiting the National Museum of American History. Upon entering the museum, we were welcomed by a silver Abstract American Flag.
As we have learned in school, The Star-Spangled Banner was written by Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812. Francis Scott Key was moved to write this poem after he witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore and noticed that, regardless of “the bombs bursting in air,” “our flag was still there.” Housed in the museum is the very same flag that flew over Fort McHenry on that 1814 evening. The star-spangled banner is now riddled with holes caused by age and marauders who have ripped segments from the flag, but we were still awestruck by this historical treasure.
With such an amazing introduction to the museum, we moved to the second floor towards the presidential exhibit.
This exhibit was filled with presidential artifacts of all sorts.
Some were morbid, like the hat that Abraham Lincoln wore during his assassination.
Others were infamous, like the filing cabinet Nixon’s Watergate break-in-team stole documents from. Yet some were more whimsical, like a pair of chaps that were worn by Teddy Roosevelt on his ranch in the Dakota Territory. This part of the museum also offered a chance to become the president, or at least stand behind the podium and re-enact some of the most famous presidential addresses.
We continued to tour the museum by visiting The Price of Freedom: Americans at War, an exhibit that explored every military struggle our nation has been involved in from the Revolutionary War to Vietnam and everything in between. As we looked through the displays, an artifact from a section dedicated to the Texas Revolution called our attention. After further inspection of the artifact, we discovered that it was hunting rifle that was owned by Sam Houston. Quickly we asked Mr. Woodward, the director of the Sam Houston Memorial Museum, to pose by the Sam Houston artifact.
Filled with muskets, machine guns, and other war waging machines, the exhibit showcased the violence behind war. We could also test our skills as “Rosie the Riveter” (Stephanie was the best riveter, by far).
But a ray of comedic relief was tucked inside a corner of the War World II exhibit. This display showed footage of celebrities, like Bob Hope and Danny Kaye, visiting troops to increase morale.
As we walked past displays dedicated to the Korean War and Vietnam War, we noticed how attitudes towards armed conflict has changed over the years. However, we were not given much time to contemplate on the matter as the museum was closing, and it was time for out next stop on our D.C. adventure.
Smithsonian Art Museum- Karla
After the history museum we decided to return to the topic of art by exploring the Smithsonian Art Museum and finish looking at the art we missed on the third floor, and also to give Beatriz the opportunity to see the Museum (she flew in late last night, having to miss the first day). We got to see pieces by James Surls and Robert Indiana. Again, this was our chance to see many art pieces by artists that we recognized. As we continued through this part of the museum, we found pieces by Luis Jimenez, Alexander Calder, Jesus Moroles, Roy Lichtenstein, Jackson Pollock, and more! We also had a chance to see Tom Lea…
…and Tony Bennett (yes, the singer!).
It was a particularly fun experience because some of the pieces are not labeled. Instead, they are labeled with a number and you must search online to find out details about each piece. It was a great experience to be able to reinforce all the learning we have done on artists and that we were able to recognize most of the ones that we knew even without the label.
Oyamel Cocina Mexicana- Beatriz
Thankfully, at the end of our journey after many miles of walking, was the Oyamel Cocina Mexicana where we would rest our weary feet and delight ourselves in a variety of Mexican cuisines. Named after the Oyamel tree native to central Mexico, the restaurant is decorated with multiple butterflies to represent the migration of these Monarchs from the US down to the mountains of Michoacán. Mexican food is one of the favorites among the ambassadors and everyone chose varying food from Enchiladas de pollo con salsa verde to pozole rojo. Afterwards, we went to get some gelato to sweeten our trip back home as we walked down the streets of Washington to prepare for another busy day.