WASHINGTON – Music,dance,expositions and performing arts will take to streets and theaters here next summer to celebrate the reopening of two museums that have been closed for more than five years.
The Smithsonian Institution's American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery will open their doors to visitors July 4 after renovations to the Old Patent Office Building,which houses both museums.
All the events are part of “Washington DC Celebrates American Originals.”
In addition,the National Archives will exhibit some documents that have never been displayed before,including a letter written by Thomas Jefferson from Paris,on the French Revolution,as part of its continuing “American Originals” series.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day 2006,restaurants,hotels and cultural institutions will take part in the celebration,encouraging American cultural experiences.
The event aims to increase tourism and cultural activities by programming walking tours,presentations,expositions,special restaurant recipes and hotel packages.
The inaugural Capital Fringe Festival,a 10-day performing arts festival,will begin July 20. The first of what is hoped to be an annual event,the festival will focus on improvisation and performances in traditional and nontraditional performance spaces.
Angela D. Fox,executive director of Cultural Tourism D.C.,a nonprofit group,said the events aim to make people stay in the city for at least one more day.
A tourist spends an average of $454 dollars a day in Washington,Fox said.
She said that the festival will increase the cultural activities around the city and make the tourists stay longer and spend more money.
“We are in pre-9/11 levels. We had about 19 million visitors last year. So we are continuing to promote Washington as a culture destination,” Fox said.
One of the sponsors of next summer's events,American Experience Foundation,was created to help rebuild tourism after the 9/11 attacks.
The Washington D.C. Convention & Tourism Corp. invested $500,000 in a media campaign to market the event.
Victoria Isley,vice-president of marketing and communications for the nonprofit group,said it is working to get more institutions to join the project. About 20 are collaborating now.
“One of the things that gives you the opportunity to invite the world is by giving them specific occasions to rejoice,” said Marc Pachter,director of the Portrait Gallery.
Pachter said the renovations to the Old Patent Office building bring it back to the way it looked in the 19th century by opening spaces,opening windows and reversing some of the changes from the 1960s,when it was first renovated.
Built from 1836 to 1868 and designed by American architect Robert Mills,the building has housed the museums since 1964. It was closed for renovation in 2000.
The changes include a glass canopy over the courtyard that has been criticized by some who argued it would be inappropriate next to the original construction. The canopy will not be finished until 2007.
Pachter said that the canopy has been designed to make the courtyard a gathering place. He said that the classic parts of the building remain the same.
“Before,it was just the space where you put art. Now it is itself a work of art,” he said.