The Labor Day weekend all around the area offers an arts extravaganza as Washington experiences the last throes of the festival madness that grips the city on Memorial Day and never lets go until the Day-After-Labor-Day. Since the opener with the National Symphony Orchestra last June, we've had folk-life, revival and Magna Carta festivals, heard a million brass bands and calypso tins, and eaten a lot of roast chicken and potato salad among the ants and cicadas.
There are two more festivals -- a children's festival in Virginia and a downtown cultural potpourri -- that make it worth trudging through the crowds one more time. (One upbeat note: The weather should be nicer as we ease into September.)
"These kids really form a bond beyond the cultural and language barriers," says Fran Wright, head of the International Children's Festival, which will take place around the gently rolling hills and fine stages of Wolf Trap Farm Park Saturday through Monday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Over the course of the celebration the whole place is given over to kids, who roam the grounds picking and choosing among an enormous range of arts offerings. There are mimes, puppets, clog dancers and singers from around the world and country on four stages -- sort of an intelligent amusement park for kids.
"We wanted children to be able to have the chance to learn something and have fun at the same time," says Wright. For those weary of performances, there will be arts workshops ranging from weaving and face painting to making oriental kites. Tickets are $6 for adults, $4 for children ages 4 to 12 and senior citizens, and free to kids under 4.
If asphalt is more your style, Washington's streets will host an unusual collage of dancers, musicians, poets and actors, along with films, art exhibits and activities for children. The fourth annual ADD ARTS Festival will take place Saturday and Sunday, and organizers are expecting more than 20,000 people.
"The local arts people in Washington will show their strength," says Bruce Carroll, managing director of District Curators, one of the sponsors of the event. "The downtown is starting to feel like a real artists' place."
On Saturday night on Western Plaza, groups including the Shirley Horn Trio and the Smith Sisters will play into the night. On Sunday from noon to 8 p.m. at the Vendors' Mall at Ninth and F streets NW, the West African group ODADAA! dances, the Johne Forges Quartet performs jazz, and Garth Tate, Michelle Parkerson, Wayson Jones and Essex Hemphill deliver performance poetry. Also scheduled: films at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, and an Artists' Graffiti Wall at Ninth and F.
Carroll is also excited by the informal opening of the new arts nexus, the Stables Arts Center at 410 Eighth St. NW. Though the formal opening will take place next April, there will be an exhibit there during the festival by the Takoma Metro Art Center. "The festival is upbeat and there's a good feeling about the downtown arts scene," says Carroll. "A lot of different forces in the community work together for a feast of local talent."
Robert Hoffman has been appointed the Smithsonian's assistant secretary for research, replacing David Challinor, who is retiring after 20 years. Hoffman has been the director of the Museum of Natural History since early 1986, and before that was a professor at the University of Kansas, where he was a leading expert on mammals. In his new post, Hoffmann will be principal adviser to Smithsonian Secretary Robert McC. Adams on all research activities and have oversight over those programs. Considering the hundreds of millions of items the Smithsonian researches and maintains (84 million items at Natural History alone), Hoffman presides over everything in the world -- a formidable job.
Things to do this week:
The soulful voice of Doc Watson will bring the haunting melodies of southern Appalachia to the Baird Auditorium on Wednesday at 7 p.m. His range -- from 16th-century ballads to the blues -- and his flat-picked fiddle tunes on the guitar will be accompanied by the beautiful harmonies of the Smith Sisters.
The Post Office Pavilion will host "a last-chance getaway weekend in a tropical paradise" -- Brazilian music and dance groups in honor of Brazilian Independence Day -- on Saturday. On Sunday and Monday, it will continue the steamy mood with beach bands.
And if you feel like leaving the city entirely behind, on Saturday at 6 p.m., an hour west of Washington at the Oasis Vineyard in Hume, Va., you can hear the hammered dulcimer, harp, mandolin, bowed psaltery and other strings of Trapezoid, in the only performance this group will give in the area this season.
Closings and Openings
The "Dog Days" show at the Kathleen Ewing Gallery may have closed last weekend, but dog lovers can still catch "The Dog Observed: Photographs 1844-1983," which opens tomorrow at the Baltimore Museum of Art. The earliest of 67 photos in the show is a calotype image of a dog grave marker from 1844. But pictures of living pooches are there too: short-haired pointers, terriers, Pekingese and Great Danes.
And to lift spirits even further, there is "In Spite of Everything, Yes," at the Meridian House until Saturday. The photos -- from such luminaries as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Ernst Haas -- portray subjects that "keep our spirits vertical by looking where the light has not gone out."