April 2021 Events at Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery

By Editorial Team on March 29, 2021
Courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.

In Dialogue: Smithsonian Objects and Social Justice
Thursday, April 8, 5 p.m.
Online via Zoom

Heighten your civic awareness through conversations about art, history and material culture. Each month, educators from the National Portrait Gallery will partner with colleagues from across the Smithsonian to discuss how historical objects from their respective collections speak to today’s social justice issues. How can the desire for cultural recognition spark activism? Together with our co-hosts from the National Museum of the American Indian, we will explore questions of identity and assimilation in relation to a portrait of activist Zitkála-Šá (Yankton Sioux), also known as Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, an outspoken critic of Indian boarding schools, and a 19th century Carlisle Indian Industrial School student uniform. Free—Registration required.

Fit for a Queen: Perkins Harnly, Victorian Style and Queer Identity in Midcentury America
Tuesday, April 6, 5 p.m.
Online via Zoom
Closed captioning provided
Presented by Sarah Burns, Ruth N. Halls Professor Emerita, Art History, Indiana University

Born on a hardscrabble Nebraska farm, artist Perkins Harnly crossed paths with legendary celebrities and colorful characters while visiting famous graveyards, winning prizes at drag balls and toiling in an upscale Los Angeles cafeteria. From the 1930s on, Harnly produced paintings of exuberantly overstuffed Victorian rooms embedded with sly jokes alluding to his own queer selfhood. Looking through the lenses of Harnly’s life and art, this talk considers the role of the Victorian interior as metaphorical closet that served as a refuge from the judgment and dangers of the outside world. Free—Registration required.

Kate Clarke Lemay, Portrait Gallery acting senior historian, will moderate the Q&A. This program is a part of the Tommie L. Pegues and Donald A. Capoccia Conversation Series in LGBTQ+ Portraiture and is hosted by PORTAL, the Portrait Gallery’s Scholarly Center.


Ongoing Programs


Writing Hour
Tuesdays, 5 p.m.
Online via Zoom

Join us weekly for a virtual creative writing hour. We’ve set up an online space where writers can create, connect and draw inspiration from the Portrait Gallery’s collection. Free—Registration required.

Wednesdays, 11 a.m.
YouTube @smithsoniannpg

  • April 7: Earth, Wind & Fire
  • April 14: Mary Lou Williams
  • April 21: Lena Horne
  • April 28: Tato Laviera

Introducing… a new kind of story time! Each week, a Portrait Gallery educator will shine a light on some of this country’s lesser-known historymakers and their portraits. Children will learn more about art, hear the stories behind the portraits and even learn some new vocabulary. Select story times will be in Spanish. For children ages 3 and up and their families.

Young Portrait Explorers
Wednesdays, 11-11:30 a.m. & 3-3:30 p.m.
Online via Zoom

  • April 14: Earth, Wind & Fire

Explore portraits of astronauts and activists, scientists and star athletes – and discover the stories behind them. Join the Portrait Gallery each week for a close look at a featured portrait. Then we’ll dig deeper with some discussion questions and get moving with fun activities on the day’s topic. Download PDF activity guides from the “Visit at Home” page of the Portrait Gallery’s website. For children ages 3 and up and their families. Free—Registration required.

Drawn to Figures LIVE
Thursdays, 11:00 a.m.
Online via Zoom

  • April 1: Painting wiht Acrylics
  • April 15: Working with Palette Knives in Acrylics

Discover your inner artist in this live virtual drawing workshop. Facilitated by artist Jill Galloway, the workshop will include guided instruction on the techniques and challenges of figure drawing. Participants will be offered the chance to share their work at the end of the session. Each program will highlight a Portrait Gallery exhibition or portrait from the collection. Open to all skill levels, ages 18 and up. Required materials will be listed on the Eventbrite program page. Free—Registration required.

Drawn to Figures
Thursdays, 11 a.m.

  • April 8, 22, & 29

YouTube @smithsoniannpg

Discover your inner artist in this online workshop on sketching the human body. Artist Jill Galloway will highlight the techniques and challenges of figure drawing while providing guided instruction and helpful tips. Open to all skill levels, ages 13 and up.

Open Studio Workshops
Fridays, 11 a.m.
YouTube @smithsoniannpg

Enjoy weekly art workshops from the comfort of your own home. Each Friday, we will post a video with a new activity or technique. Grab a family member or your roommates, or make a virtual date with a friend, and get creative with artist Jill Galloway. Artists of all ages and skill levels will enjoy creating art inspired by the Portrait Gallery’s collection.


Online Docent Tours

Group Tours
By reservation
Online via Zoom

Since we can’t get together in person, let’s meet up remotely! In January 2021, the National Portrait Gallery will begin offering docent-led group tours for adults online. The following tours will be available by registration: America’s Presidents, Highlights of the National Portrait Gallery, Docent’s Choice, and Special Exhibitions. Reservations are required, and a three-week advance notice is appreciated. E-mail NPGAdultTours@si.edu to receive a tour request form. All tours are subject to availability; last-minute cancellations may occur.