I will admit that I’m a bit of a New York snob when it comes to DC. I’ve lived here nearly five years, and for the first 3.5 years, I prefaced every introduction with “I just moved from Brooklyn” (code for: don’t try to impress me with anything about DC and its suburbs, because everything down here sucks in comparison to NYC — especially the bagels and pizza). Yeah, I know. I’m surprised I made any friends too. But here I am almost five years later, and whether I liked it or not in 2007 (or, 8, 9, or 10), this is home now.
And to be honest, I’ve learned that living down here is pretty awesome too. Sure, I no longer live a mile from the Brooklyn Academy of Art, but I do live 10 minutes from Strathmore and 10 minutes from the American Film Institute, and if you put those two together, it’s just as good — better actually, because the BAM Cinematheque had awful seats, when I think about it.
Strathmore has been such a beacon of cultural activity for us. We saw our old Brooklyn fave Dan Zanes perform there (and cried when he sang “Welcome Table” and “The Sidewalks of New York”); we attended UkeFest 2011 with our good buddies and rocked out to ukulele songs; we watched an amazing Russian dance troupe and snacked on snow cones at the Backyard Theatre for Children last summer.
In September, a fellow Anglophile trekked over from Virginia to meet me at Strathmore for a memorable afternoon tea to celebrate my birthday, and in October, Amy and I accompanied Jess at the tART reception, where we ate yummy food, had a couple of Appletinis, and listened to some swingin’ jazz.
This past Saturday, we took advantage of another cultural opportunity at Strathmore — one of their education programs held at the Mansion. In conjunction with Strathmore’s current “You Are What You Eat” exhibition (Feb. 11 – March 17, 2012), they are offering a few weekend events for kids. The one my 7-year-old daughter attended was called “Play With Your Food.”
She learned about 16th century artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s innovative “Vegetable Portraits,” and the basics of portraiture (structure, proportion, facial features, etc.). Then she and the other children created two wonderful pieces of art: a self portrait we plan to frame and another one made of food (pictured). Doesn’t she look deliriously happy? Taught by local artist, teacher and photographer Lisa Murphy (who by the way, is a gorgeous silver-haired doppelganger for Catherine Keener), the workshop made my daughter feel so excited about painting. She kept talking about Arcimboldo’s imaginative portraits; her favorite is “Vegetables in a Bowl or The Gardener” (“It’s funny, because it changes when you look at it one way or the other” — she said).
As a bonus, I didn’t even have to feed her a snack, because when we got home, she and her brothers “ate” her portrait!
This Saturday, Lisa is going to be teaching another children’s workshop, Cooking Up Creativity, 10:30AM-2:30PM.
“Project Runway” meets “Top Chef” in this artful workshop! To begin, students use everything but the kitchen sink, to design, sew, button, glue and create their very own chef’s apron. Next, properly adorned in their new apron fashions, students will study the painting techniques of legendary artists Pablo Picasso and Georges Seurat, and then create — using paintbrushes and colored icing — one-of-a-kind cookie masterpieces ready to eat! Students bring a bag lunch. Cost is $75 general admission, $67.50 for Strathmore Stars members.
You can find a complete list of other upcoming Strathmore programs for children here .
All this to say, nowadays, whenever I talk to my New York friends, I say: “You wouldn’t believe how much cool stuff there is to do here!” instead of “God, I miss New York.”
Disclosure: My daughter received a complimentary admission to the “Play With Your Food” class, but I’ve paid for afternoon tea, concerts, and other events at Strathmore in the past.