I had the great good fortune to work for Smithsonian Enterprises for a few years – working for the magazine, catalogue and travel Web sites. My tenure overlapped with the grand reopening of the American Art Museum and Portrait Gallery, an incredible, beautiful building full of history and with a lot going on (tip for visitors: traverse it from the top-down). My Number One Favorite Most Awesomest Thing in the Smithsonian Institution’s Vast Collections is this.
It was fantastic to feel a part of this great institution, and one of the perks was getting familiar with the collections. I’d seen this gem before, as a kid growing up in DC you visit the Smithsonian museums rather a lot, but for some reason it didn’t really stay with me until I saw it as an adult.
Nothing rocks in the museum more than this. It’s an incredible installation, given a lot of real estate in a back corner of the American Art Museum dedicated to folk art. Built over the course of 14 years in a DC garage by a guy named James Hampton, this piece of magnificence was only discovered after his death in 1964.
A couple of adjectives that come to mind every time I round the corner and see this thing:
It’s probably (okay, more than probably) the product of an at least somewhat deranged mind, but it looks to me like an enormous, elaborate, long-term act of love and devotion. It’s joyful and inspiring. It makes me happy not only that it exists, but that it’s been given such a place of honor in our nation’s collection. And the great thing about the Smithsonian – it belongs to all of us. My tax dollars go towards the painstaking maintenance of this gem. This I can get into.
And the words it’s crowned with – Fear Not – are almost universally applicable.
I’m thankful for a lot more, of course (Spouse, health, kitty cats like Ms. Lucia who has her claws lovingly embedded in my leg right now, and so on), and that’s all great, but pretty dull. So, have a great one everybody. Eat well and don’t let the crazy people bug you. And if you look around the room and don’t see someone who is the most crazy, it could be you.