ICYMI: Highlights from the week of May 5 – May 11, 2019

No one can keep up with everything, so let us do it for you. We’ll gather the top Smithsonian stories from across the country and around the world each week so you’ll never be at a loss for conversation around the water cooler.

We learned about efforts to make art more representative of the nation’s citizens and Trump’s efforts to make the nation more representative of … Trump.

Clip art banner with ICYMI in black speech bibble

From Eric the robot to Dorothy’s slippers: 10 years of Kickstarter

A decade on from the birth of the crowdfunding platform, Tim Adams talks to cofounder Perry Chen and looks back at some of its greatest campaigns

The Guardian, May 4

Kickstarter founders pose in front of headquarters

Yancey Strickler, left, and Perry Chen, two of the three co-founders of Kickstarter, 2010. Photograph: New York Times/Redux/eyevine

The idea of Kickstarter first formed in the mind of Perry Chen in 2001. A native New Yorker, Chen was 25, living in New Orleans and working as a musician. He wanted to bring a pair of DJs he loved down to perform during Jazz Fest. He sorted out a venue, organised things with their management, but in the end the event didn’t happen – Chen didn’t have the funds to pay for the show if not enough people turned up. In his frustration, a thought occurred to him: “What if people could go to a website and pledge to buy tickets for a show? And if enough money was pledged, they would be charged and the show would happen. If not, it wouldn’t.”

Over the years that followed, Chen held on to that simple idea. He moved back to New York in 2005, still more intent on making music than starting an internet company – he had no background in technology – but the thought wouldn’t go away. He became friends with a music journalist, Yancey Strickler, who got sold on the idea, too. They talked about it with, Charles Adler, a designer and DJ, and the three of them formulated ideas and spoke to mates of mates who knew code or to people who might help fund such a thing. Eventually, in April 2009, eight years after the idea had first come to Chen, the three of them launched their website and waited at their laptops to see if other people thought it was a good idea too. Read more from the Guardian.

Art so white: Black artists want representation (beyond slavery) in the Met, National Gallery

USA Today, May 5

A black female model leans on a stool atop a platform in a second-story studio in the city’s historic arts district.

She is nude, stoic and motionless. A half-dozen students have formed a U-shape around her as they draw her, using charcoal pencils.

George Morton, the instructor who opened the Atelier South in January, stops by each student’s workstation to offer a critique.

The model, Morton says, symbolizes what he believes is missing in fine art: the fair representation of black people.

Artists say African Americans are absent from historical art collections in some of the world’s largest museums, galleries and major auctions. They insist that most of the paintings and portraits hanging on the walls of these institutions were created by white men and feature prominent white figures in American or European history.

Morton is part of a movement of black artists and curators from New York to Atlanta who are hosting exhibits, teaching classes and creating work that shines a light on black culture. Read more from USA Today.

8 Mind-blowing designs created to save the world from destruction

The marvels at the Cooper Hewitt Triennial in New York City include glowing silk, a tree that bears 40 fruits, and a burial suit made of mushrooms.

Elle Decor, May 6

Neon blue art installation

“Tranceflora” by Sputniko! and Masay Kusino. Photo by So Morimoto.

The 2019 Triennial, which opens on May 10 at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum on New York City’s Upper East Side, is a fantasy world where art and nature intersect. Nature, which is this year’s theme, inspired such creations as Tranceflora, by Japan-based Sputniko! and Masaya Kushino (above), which injected silkworm eggs with jellyfish and coral DNA to produce a vivid, glowing silk that can be woven into garments. Looking toward the great beyond, California company Coeio crafted an Infinity Burial Suit, which promotes sustainable burial practices and transforms the body into vital nutrients for the earth via its mushroom-and-microorganism composition. But as Instagram-worthy as the visuals may be, for the museum’s director Caroline Baumann, the triennial itself represents something more important. “It’s all about what we need to do to get to zero carbon emissions by 2050,” she tells ED. Baumann sees climate change as the gravest danger to our planet, and only through design can we reverse its toxic effects on the environment. Read more from Elle Decor. 

Record 21.9 million domestic tourists visited D.C. last year

The Washington Post, May 7

Tourists silhouetted against Capitol building

Tourists cruise the Mall on Segway scooters at 14th Street NW looking toward the Capitol. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

If it felt crowded on the Mall or other tourist hot spots last year, that’s because it was: 21.9 million people from around the country visited the District in 2018 and spent $7.8 billion — both record numbers, the city’s official marketing organization said Tuesday.

Destination DC, a nonprofit organization funded by the city’s hotel occupancy tax, said the number of domestic visitors was an increase of 1.1 million over 2017. The amount they spent was up 4.3 percent from the previous year, the organization said. Read more from The Washington Post.

Scientific team digs up rare whale carcass they buried at Fort De Soto

The rare Bryde’s whale, a young male, was apparently killed by a piece of plastic it had swallowed. Its skeleton will aid scientists in learning more about the endangered marine mammals.

Tampa Bay Times, May 7

About 100 yards from the beach, under a broiling May sun, a team of scientists worked steadily at excavating a dead body. When two small backhoes couldn’t pull it out of the grave, a larger machine rumbled in and tried tugging it out. The crowd began to cheer — then went “Ohhhhh” when the tail snapped off.

John Ososky, who was there to take the body away for the Smithsonian Institution, shook his head. This was what he’d been afraid would happen. He was particularly concerned about keeping the 8-foot by 4-foot skull intact, too.

The body belonged to a rare 38-foot Bryde’s (pronounced “BROO-duss”) whale that the scientists had buried at Fort De Soto back in February to let the flesh rot away. On Tuesday, Ososky, the Smithsonian’s collections manager, was there to supervise its exhumation so he could take the skeleton, or try to.Read more from the Tampa Bay Times.

Celebrating the First Trans-Atlantic Flight. No, It Wasn’t Lindbergh’s.

A Navy seaplane flew from Queens to the Azores in 1919, eight years before the Spirit of St Louis. It took three weeks. It was not nonstop.

The New York Times, May 8

Read the full article:Celebrating the First Trans-Atlantic Flight. No It Wasnt Lindberghs – The New York Times – 5.8.19

A new exhibition resurrects a forgotten modern master

T.C. Cannon was a pioneering painter of Native American life

The Economist, May 8

Read the entire article: A new exhibition resurrects a forgotten modern master – The Economist – 5.8.19

Money, Ethics, Art: Can Museums P{olice Themselves?

The New York Times, May 9

Read the entire article: Money Ethics Art_ Can Museums Police Themselves – The New York Times – 5.9.19

Native American representation on Capitol Hill concerns House lawmakers

Appropriators take aim at what they call offensive art and disrespectful tours

Roll Call, May 8

Native American in full regalia speaks in front of the Capitol

House Appropriators are urging the Architect of the Capitol to work with the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian to contextualize portrayals of Native Americans on Capitol Hill. Former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., a member of the Northern Cheyenne tribe and pictured here, spoke at the opening of the museum in 2004. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call file photo.)

House lawmakers are raising issues about Native American representation in and around the Capitol — and they aren’t talking about the record number of Native American women in the 116th Congress.

A House Appropriations Committee report released Wednesday highlights disrespectful descriptions of Native Americans on Capitol tours and depictions in artwork around the Capitol campus, which “do not portray Native Americans as equals or Indian nations as independent sovereigns.” Read more from Roll Call. 

John Ahearn’s Portrait of a Teen Art Prodigy Was Once Up for a Top Prize. Now, That Teen Is Up for the Same Prize—for a Portrait of Ahearn

Devon Rodriguez is a 2019 finalist in the Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.

Artnet News, May 10

Side-by-side comparisons of two portraits

Left: Detail of Devon Rodriguez’s painting John Ahearn (2017). Right: Detail of John Ahearn’s sculpture The Rodriguez Twins (2014).

Five years ago, the sculptor John Ahearn—best known for his hand-painted cast plaster portraits of everyday Bronx residents—happened upon a painting of subway riders at a high school art show in the South Bronx.

“It was a masterpiece, absolutely fresh and perfectly painted,” Ahearn tells artnet News. When he met the artist, 18-year-old Devon Rodriguez, “He was quiet and easy. I told him I had a studio down the block and asked him to come by.” Read more from Artnet.

WPI speaker: Success can be found in failure

The Telegram (UK), May 11

Stofan on stage in academic robes

Ellen Stofan, director of the National Air and Space Museum, receives an honorary degree during the 151st commencement ceremony of Worcester Polytechnic institute on Saturday. (T&G Staff/Ashley Green

Graduates at Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s 151st commencement ceremony were urged to accept failure and adversity on the road to success and not fear it. That message was conveyed by several of the speakers during Saturday’s exercises on the campus quadrangle that saw 1,019 undergraduates receive degrees.

Ellen R. Stofan, once NASA’s chief scientist who conducted studies of the geology of Mars, Venus and Saturn’s moon, Titan, delivered the address. Ms. Stofan is now director of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. and received a WPI honorary degree. Read more from The Telegram.

Trump takes over Fourth of July celebration, changing its location and inserting himself into the program

The Washington Post, May 10

Supporter holding Trump sign with fireworks in background

Fireworks after a campaign rally by President Trump rally in Panama City Beach, Fla., on Wednesday. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

President Trump has effectively taken charge of the nation’s premier Fourth of July celebration in Washington, moving the gargantuan fireworks display from its usual spot on the Mall to be closer to the Potomac River and making tentative plans to address the nation from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, according to top administration officials.

The president’s starring role has the potential to turn what has long been a nonpartisan celebration of the nation’s founding into another version of a Trump campaign rally. Officials said it is unclear how much the changes may cost, but the plans have already raised alarms among city officials and some lawmakers about the potential impact of such major alterations to a time-honored and well-organized summer tradition. Read more from the Washington Post.

Posted: 14 May 2019
About the Author:

The Torch editor is fired with a burning desire to ignite the flames of enthusiasm among her Smithsonian colleagues while brandishing the Torch of knowledge. She also likes puns.