Visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Discover what the NMAAHC has to offer your family and friends and add it to your travel bucket list.

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Ever since its dedication on the National Mall in September 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) has been one of the most popular Smithsonian institutions. So many people include this museum in their Washington, D.C., itinerary that you need a timed entry pass to gain admission. Tourists can brave either the periodic timed pass release four months in advance, or try the 6:30 a.m. same-day pass release online. I recommend that you request an early entry time, like 10:30 or 11:00 a.m., to get ahead of the crowds and see as much as you can before the museum closes at 5:30 p.m.

Typically, I don’t recommend museum food, but the Sweet Home Café is really at another level in taste, quality, and ambience. It features classic dishes at four very distinct stations representing the Southern, Creole, Northern, and Western regions. Café staff are among the friendliest and personable I’ve met at a museum. Stop at the café rightbefore you embark with your group into the galleries. Otherwise, you’ll waste a lot of time backtracking from the exhibits to the café and then finding your exhibit. Continue reading “Visiting the National Museum of African American History and Culture”

Wil Wheaton Pushes STEAM at the USA Science & Engineering Festival

Wil Wheaton
Wil Wheaton at the USA Science & Engineering Festival. Credit: Pat Cuadros

Thousands converged upon Washington, DC, last weekend for the fourth USA Science & Engineering Festival. The Festival is regarded as the largest STEM education event in the country, with family-friendly demonstrations and talks. They focus on guiding young people with interests in the career fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). In addition to educators and professional associations, well-known scientists and even entertainers offer their insights on these exciting opportunities.

Actor and blogger Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next Generation; Big Bang Theory) was one of the celebrity guests at hand for the festivities this year. On Sunday morning, he introduced the winners of the Generation Nano Awards on behalf of the National Science Foundation and the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The competition required high school students to imagine their own superheroes with powers emerging out of nanotechnology. With the angle on comic books and visual design, it was fitting that legendary comic-book writer Stan Lee joined Wil Wheaton (virtually) to extend his congratulatory sentiments to the winners. Continue reading “Wil Wheaton Pushes STEAM at the USA Science & Engineering Festival”

Interview, Part 2: Bonnie MacBird, Author of ‘Art in the Blood: A Sherlock Holmes Adventure’

Cover Art for 'Art in the Blood'
Courtesy of Bonnie MacBird

Art in the Blood: A Sherlock Holmes Adventure follows Holmes and Watson in December of 1888 as they investigate a kidnapping, murder, and art theft. The author, Hollywood screenwriter Bonnie MacBird, recently met with me when I was on assignment with Blogcritics. She explained the influence of her screenwriting experience on the development of the novel. In this final part of our interview, MacBird discusses the research process and what’s next in her Sherlock Holmes series.

At your panel, you spoke about how great it is to find “research gold” in your preparation for a book. Can you mention a couple of other examples of historical facts you included?

Yes, there were several besides the finding of Dr. [Henri] Bourges, who is the Watson to [artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec]. Lautrec threw a lot of parties. There’s a picture in the annotations of them and obviously they had a lot of fun.

Continue reading “Interview, Part 2: Bonnie MacBird, Author of ‘Art in the Blood: A Sherlock Holmes Adventure’”

Interview, Part 1: Bonnie MacBird, Author of ‘Art in the Blood: A Sherlock Holmes Adventure’

Hollywood screenwriter Bonnie MacBird discusses her latest ‪Sherlock Holmes‬ novel, her passion for art, and her career.

Photo of Bonnie MacBird
Courtesy of Bonnie MacBird

Bonnie MacBird visited the Virginia Festival of the Book to promote her latest book, Art in the Blood: A Sherlock Holmes Adventure. Her long career as a screenwriter, producer, and director includes the screenplay for the original TRON as well as three Emmy Awards and eleven Cine Golden Eagle Awards. A lifelong Sherlockian, MacBird lives in Los Angeles and takes frequent trips to London.

Is this your first time at the Virginia Festival of the Book?

Yes, it’s my first time and I love it! I’m very impressed with Charlottesville. It’s beautiful. The whole town and the festival itself are quite impressive.

I know you have a background as a screenwriter, producer, and actress. You’ve put on a Sherlock Holmes play, The Blue Carbuncle. What was the transition like from screenwriting to novel writing?

My background is in the movie business. I’ve been 35 years in the entertainment business in Los Angeles. I started as a studio exec. I did development and that meant reading literally thousands of scripts. I think during that very formative time in my career, I got many lessons on story structure by doing that and working on screenplays, which are highly structured pieces of writing. Then I was a screenwriter for a number of years. I was the original writer of the movie, TRON, and then did a bunch of other scripts that sold. Continue reading “Interview, Part 1: Bonnie MacBird, Author of ‘Art in the Blood: A Sherlock Holmes Adventure’”

A Fantastic Summer at the Art Museum: ‘Guarding Leonardo da Vinci’

Yes, it’s April 15th, which means your Federal income taxes are due today. On a much more positive note, it’s also the birthday of celebrated Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci, who lived from 1452-1519. I’m always excited about Leonardo because I studied Art History as an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, situated within a day’s drive of our nation’s capital: Washington, D.C. The close proximity is quite nice, as it affords me with the opportunity to visit the National Gallery of Art on a regular basis. The NGA is the only museum on the Western Hemisphere that houses a Leonardo painting. Continue reading “A Fantastic Summer at the Art Museum: ‘Guarding Leonardo da Vinci’”

Final Weekend to See Idil Sukan’s Fantastic ‘This Comedian’ Exhibit in London

Last month, I visited London for the first time with Tony, my older brother. It was a whirlwind of a week with excursions to the museums to see many works of art that I’d studied as an art history major at the University of Virginia. Call to mind any number of famous works housed in London in graphite, paint, ceramic, or marble and it’s likely we marveled at them.

Embassy Tea Gallery on Union Street, London - Photo: Pat Cuadros
Embassy Tea Gallery on Union Street, London – Photo: Pat Cuadros

Notice that my enumeration above leaves out photography. To be honest, I generally dislike exhibitions centered around photography, avoiding them on the museum circuit. It’s probably because photos, while artfully rendered, often seem too gimmicky and hollow. Where’s that sense of a captured moment in time, quirkiness, and charm when you gaze upon a subject? Continue reading “Final Weekend to See Idil Sukan’s Fantastic ‘This Comedian’ Exhibit in London”

Film Review: Julian Jones and Peter Capaldi Try a Bold, New Approach with ‘Inside the Mind of Leonardo’

Peter Capaldi as Leonardo da Vinci in
Peter Capaldi as Leonardo da Vinci in “Inside the Mind of Leonardo.” (Submarine Deluxe/History Film/IWC Media)

It’s very exciting to post my review on “Inside the Mind of Leonardo in 3D,” which opened in US theaters on December 19th. It finally arrived in our nation’s capital, Washington, DC, earlier today (in 2D). Julian Jones’ documentary is a bold endeavor to capture the mind of the artist Leonardo da Vinci, who left us with quite a body of work that includes the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. There seems to be a bit of an aura about the man, tied largely to the release of books from authors like Dan Brown. Da Vinci thus has seemed to strike many people in today’s world as a genius, a Renaissance man that towers above others in his time and the great artists of today. Continue reading “Film Review: Julian Jones and Peter Capaldi Try a Bold, New Approach with ‘Inside the Mind of Leonardo’”