Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Keep It Local: Portrait Story Days at the National Portrait Gallery and DC Youth Poetry Slam

We have a knack for accidentally discovering the coolest (and often free) events and programs in DC. It happens all the time, which is likely an indicator that the city is just teeming with awesome opportunities for kids, but we like to think we have a particular affinity for finding them just the same. Mom has been waiting to take us to Portrait Story Days at the National Portrait Gallery for a while. We're no strangers to art museums, but she wanted to make sure we were both old enough to really get the program. Turns out it is super laid back and we would have been just fine ages ago, but regardless, it was awesome.

While we waited for the Story Days to begin, we checked out the Gallery's fabulous exhibit "Dancing the Dream," which is filled with multimedia art of all kinds of dance styles. Cam loved the ballet and I loved that I was able to pick out Beyonce's "All the Single Ladies" video. The exhibit is at the Gallery until July and we definitely recommend checking it out.

When it was storytime, we listened to a fabulous book about Julia Child and then made self-portraits from fruits and veggies while video of Julia played on the wall. It was such a cool activity! After we finished our mugs, we got to check out discovery kits, too. Each kit comes with a doll of someone whose portrait is in the museum, along with lots of ideas for prompting kids to look and examine the artwork. I was pretty psyched to pull Abe Lincoln (one of my top two favorite presidents, along with GW) and Cam was thrilled to get Jacqueline Kennedy. We went on a search throughout the Gallery for portraits of our peeps and then spent a good amount of time comparing our doll to the portrait. Cam was a little antsy to get to the Kogod Courtyard snack bar, so she and daddy went ahead, but I spent a lot of time discussing Lincoln's portrait with mom, describing it using the great set of notepads in the kits, and drawing my own portrait of him, too (they let us keep the notepads, which are awesome and will be used on lots of future museum trips).

We finally met up with Cam and daddy in the courtyard only to find that the Gallery was setting up for the semi-finals of the DC Youth Poetry Slam team -- the competition was going to determine the team to represent DC nationally and internationally. Mom and I were PSYCHED. Cam was tired. So Cam and daddy headed home and mom and I poked around the Gallery a bit more until the slam started and then we made sure we had front row seats. Mom talked to me a bit about what slam poetry is and told me that even though these were kids, they would likely be talking about sort of adult subjects. I insisted that I wanted to stay, so we did. I thought it was neat that kids got up to perform and that a lot of the poetry sounded like music to me. I even volunteered to be a judge (random audience members just the competition), but mom said I was too young. I kept my own scores anyway. And mom was blown away. Seriously, blown away. She thought the kids were super brave and talented and inspiring. I might have caught her crying a bit. Maybe.

The National Portrait Gallery hosts Portrait Story Days on select Saturdays and Sundays each month. You can check the events calendar right here. We HIGHLY recommend both the storytime and the discovery kits.

If you get a chance and feel that your kids are old enough or are comfortable with your younger ones being exposed to some more mature issues, you should definitely check out DC's youth slam poets at an open mic night, which they hold the 3rd Saturday of each month at Busboys & Poets. Amazing.

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