On Tuesday, October 22, 2019, Midlo’s Art classes traveled to Washington, D.C. to experience the many art exhibits held in the Capital’s galleries and museums. One hundred students from the various fine art classes; 3-D design, graphics, photography, and studio art arrived early to school on the 22nd, and by 7:30 am, departed in charter buses to their first stop of the trip, the National Museum of African American Art and Culture. A relatively recent Smithsonian addition, the museum not only holds photos, paintings, and sculptures produced by African American artists, but also offers a wide array of musical, athletic, film, and theatrical memorabilia contributed by the nation’s most influential figures.
Moreover, a “time machine” elevator descends to the bottom half of the museum, where guests can experience a rich and emotionally impactful historical walk-through of African Americans’ journey through the United States, from enslavement in the 1400’s to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. Through the many dynamic architectural rings that make up the foundation of the museum, the sights and sounds of the exhibitions enveloped the students, which helped to amplify the effect and message that the culture of African Americans has significantly altered the way Americans experience art. Senior Alex Neofotistis, an AP Photo student, said of the museum, “It was amazing, just the volume of art, music, and history they had was astounding. Everything from Louis Armstrong’s trumpet to Gordon Parks’ Voigtländer Brillant film camera; every corner I turned led me into something even more engaging and breathtaking that invited me to look deeper.” After concluding their visit to the African American Art and Culture Museum with a unique lunch that pulled from many African cooking styles and tastes, the students traveled to the contemporary Renwick Gallery.
A slew of abstract and profound exhibitions met the students upon entering the gallery, and the group witnessed many new pieces, erected since last year’s visit. David Best’s “Temple” was a main attraction of the gallery, as it transforms the Grand Salon into a comforting sanctuary, where visitors can mourn the loss of loved ones in an intricately carved wooden installation. Within the temple, Midlo’s art students sat in the warm glow of the Grand Salon and left personal condolences to ones they’ve lost, while still gaining inspiration from the innovative piece. Ginny Ruffner’s interactive glass foliage sculptures, Reforestation of the Imagination, and Michael Sherrill’s naturalist botanical installations, Retrospective, also attracted a multitude of attention, sketches, and photographs from the students. About the Renwick, Cowen Chamberlain, a sophomore graphics student, commented, “Going through the installations, it felt like I was transported into another world. The towering light fixtures, meticulously detailed glass sculptures, and woven wool murals made me really appreciate the dedication and heart these artists bring to their pieces.”
Across all ages and art levels, the installations, exhibitions, and experiences of the fine art museums left a lasting impact on the minds of the budding artists. Washington D.C. fosters many of the country’s prestigious museums, and with the Smithsonian addition, Museum of African American Art and Culture, there adds yet another reason for Midlo’s art students to witness the ever-changing mediums of art taking place in the capital’s galleries. Sean Rund, a sophomore studio art student, said of the experience, “This was my first year going on the D.C. Art Field Trip, and after the day I had spending time exploring the museums with my friends, I’ll definitely be coming back for another year. I’m so much more inspired now to create and witness art in any medium; going on this trip made me feel proud of being a part of the fine arts community.”