Summer art means adventure for me and my siblings. It meant early evening drives on unfamiliar New England roads — in a 1970s Volkswagen minibus, no less — as our theater professor father sought out a different summer stock theater near our weekly rental home. It was an annual quest, and one that introduced us to musicals, farces and whodunits.
The titles of the shows have faded, but not the sense of adventure that entailed finding our way — pre-GPS — to a new small town and its converted barn or refurbished theater. These outings were not all artistically satisfying, as exemplified by the show we remember as “Headless Mame” because we couldn’t see the face of the star whenever she moved downstage. But great art wasn’t the point. These evenings linked theater with vacations and family time.
Your summer artistic adventure, whether theater or indoor art exhibit, doesn’t have to take you far. Just channel the season’s casual vibe as you gather family and friends. Take a risk on the unfamiliar. Discovery awaits.
You never need a reason to venture out to the Kreeger Museum, a treasure in the Foxhall section of the city, but a new piece in the newly opened woods behind the museum is a lovely excuse. An extension of its sculpture garden, the five-and-a-half-acre woods and its meandering paths offer a shady oasis that will be especially pleasant when temperatures rise.
Its site-specific installation, “Portals” by Sandra Muss, features seven 10-foot-high steel-and-glass columns that reflect and engage with their natural environment. Arranged in a mazelike configuration, the columns are wrapped in wire and vines that mimic and reflect nature.
The woods are a place of peace, Muss said about her inspiration for the work, a gift to the museum.
“The woods are an opening, a way into myself and out of myself,” she said. “I hope others open that door, that portal.”
Muss’s work invites guests to wander into the woods from the sunny lawn, where Kendall Buster’s “Garden Snare” and Ledelle Moe’s “Transitions/Displacements” are on view. The forest paths lead to the museum’s plaza and reflecting pool on the other side of the museum.
The Kreeger Museum, 2401 Foxhall Rd. NW, D.C. Sculpture garden open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Museum open Tuesday through Thursday 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 10 to 4 p.m. Suggested donation: $10 for adults, $7 for military, students and seniors. KreegerMuseum.org
● Artist Heather Clark has transformed a roofless pre-Revolutionary War building into an artwork and summer stage in Frederick, Md. Sky Stage is open through July, offering fitness classes, movies, open mics, concerts and an artists market. A 2010 fire damaged the historic building, but Clark and the local arts council have created a large public artwork that welcomes the community. Sky Stage, 59 S. Carroll St, Frederick. SkyStageFrederick.com
● Enjoy the outdoor landscapes of activist-lawyer turned painter Frederic Kellogg in the appropriately timed summer show “Frederic Kellogg: Works in Oil and Watercolor.” A former assistant U.S. attorney who splits his time between Washington and Maine, Kellogg served as legal counsel for the National Endowment for the Arts and helped many local artists before becoming a full-time painter in 1992. E.A. Carmean Jr., former curator at the National Gallery of Art, curates the show, which includes watercolors done en plein-air and oils. June 17 through Aug. 13. American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW, D.C. Open Tuesday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Free. The artist will give a free demonstration of watercolor painting en plein-air at the museum June 24 from 2 to 4 p.m. Bring a sketchbook or easel. American.edu/cas/Museum
● “The Face of Battle: Americans at War, 9/11 to Now.” The National Portrait Gallery presents a moving exhibition that looks at the consequences of modern warfare through portraits of those who serve. The show features 56 works by six artists, highlighted by Emily Prince’s installation of 1,500 small portraits titled, “American Servicemen and Women Who Have Died in Iraq and Afghanistan (But Not Including the Wounded, Nor the Iraqis nor the Afghanis).” Through Jan. 28. National Portrait Gallery, Eighth and F streets NW. Open daily 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Free. npg.si.edu
●The National Museum of American History opens the renovated second floor of its west wing with two permanent exhibitions, “American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith” and “Many Voices, One Nation.” In addition, “Religion in Early America” will be the first exhibition in the renovated changing gallery. The renovation of the west wing began in 2012, with the first floor — focused on innovation — opening in 2015. Work on the third floor, which will examine American culture and identity, is underway. Opens June 28. National Museum of American History, Constitution Avenue between 12th and 14th streets NW. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Free. AmericanHistory.si.edu
Read more from the Summer Arts Preview: