Director’s Desk: Welcome Back!

Blog Category:  Director's Desk
A large group of people wearing the same white-and-black T-shirt pose for a photo in an ornate great hall. They stand in two rows, with the front row people crouching down. Everyone smiles widely and excitedly, some people raise their hands in celebration.

After a long two-and-a-half-year renovation, I am thrilled to welcome visitors to the “new NMWA!” Join me as I reflect on our celebratory and action-packed reopening festivities.

In a dim-lit museum gallery many women walk around a sculpture of flattened silverware that hangs from the ceiling, hovering just above the gallery floor.
Visitors explore Cornelia Parker’s Thirty Pieces of Silver (exhaled) Sugar Bowl (2003) in the special exhibition The Sky’s the Limit; Photo by Elyse Cosgrove/Asico Photo

In the lead-up to reopening, we were honored to host First Lady Jill Biden, who spoke at a gathering for supporters and friends who made the renovation possible. A longtime fan of the museum, Dr. Biden said, “when women artists have a place to show their work, when they are recognized for it, the world begins to value them differently too—to listen to what they have to say.”

A dark-skinned young woman stands at a podium at the entrance of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, she smiles at a crowd of people who sit in gold-painted chairs on the sidewalk in front of the building.
Poet Alexa Patrick performs her work at the ribbon cutting ceremony; Photo by Elyse Cosgrove/Asico Photo

On October 21, our grand reopening day, poet Alexa Patrick performed a new work inspired by the museum to a group of NMWA friends and staff at our ribbon cutting ceremony. She honored the women whose art is on our walls, exclaiming:

Thank you, Fede!
Thank you, Alice!
Thank you, Niki!
Thank you, Frida!
Thank you, Chakaia!
Thank you, Amy!

and Georgia! and Alison! and The Guerrilla Girls! and! and! and!

for carrying our culture,
giving us bricks to build
resistance, revolution,

We were also grateful for the presence of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. In her remarks, she spoke of the museum’s enduring importance to the city as a beacon of culture and social change. She joined me, Board Chair Winton Holladay, Events Chair Gina Adams, Board President Susan Goldberg, and Larry Di Rita, Bank of America President, Greater Washington, D.C., to officially cut the ribbon and invite the public into the building.

Six people stand in behind a wide green ribbon with scissors, ready to cut it.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, NMWA Events Chair Gina Adams, NMWA Board Chair Winton Holladay, NMWA Board President Susan Goldberg, myself, and Larry Di Rita, Bank of America President, Greater Washington, D.C., at the ribbon cutting ceremony; Photo by Elyse Cosgrove/Asico Photo

After that, the museum was officially open! I was outside to greet the first visitors as they waited to enter. It was a true delight to meet so many guests at this exciting moment.

A group of people are standing in line outside of a building. A woman with a light skin tone and gray hair is shaking the hands of a woman standing in line. The woman standing in line has a dark skin tone and is wearing a beige suit.
It was a pleasure to greet NMWA’s first visitors, including Vanessa Elliott, Maritime Program Manager at U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Photo by Elyse Cosgrove/Asico Photo

The day featured many surprises and delights. Les the DJ and BOOMscat enlivened the Great Hall with their music. Vendors, all local women, provided samples and tastings of their wares and food, and Ars Poetica wrote personalized on-the-spot poems for visitors in our revamped Library and Research Center. Throughout the afternoon, we hosted spotlight conversations in the galleries as people saw old favorites and new works from the collection and special exhibitions.

A five-piece band performs on a stage. The three backing members are all men wearing black trendy street wear. The two leading members, positioned in the front, are Black women; one sings and the other plays on a blue keyboard.
BOOMscat performs in the Great Hall; Photo by Elyse Cosgrove/Asico Photo
Many people of different ages and races stand in a white-walled museum gallery, some smiling and clapping. A display case containing an artist's book is in the center of the room. Behind everyone, on the wall, is large blue text that reads "Holding Ground: Artists' Books for the National Museum of Women in the Arts."
Artists, NMWA educators, and visitors gather in the exhibition Holding Ground: Artists’ Books for the National Museum of Women in the Arts in the new 4th floor galleries; Photo by Elyse Cosgrove/Asico Photo
Four women are sitting and standing in a bright and airy room. In front of them are three type writers, which two of the women are using. The women have dark and light skin tones and are wearing floral shirts and velvet dresses. All of them are smiling at the camera. The woman in the back is sitting at a computer screen.
Ars Poetica wrote personalized poems for visitors in the revamped Library and Research Center; Photo by Elyse Cosgrove/Asico Photo
In a dimly-lit museum gallery, a light-skinned woman stands between two large abstract wax sculptures that hang from the ceiling. One is a a white intricate rectangle of connected flowers and vines; the other is a black cluster of fine, vein-like threads and hanging spheres. Below each sculpture, are more of their elements are arranged on the ground. The woman faces a group of visitors who look on.
NMWA Chief Curator Kathryn Wat speaks about artist Petah Coyne’s sculptures in the special exhibition The Sky’s the Limit; Photo by Elyse Cosgrove/Asico Photo

One of my favorite activities of the day (to watch!) was flash tattooing by artist Bibi Abelle. Bibi created a new selection of fine line tattoos, her signature, inspired by NMWA’s collection. She was fully booked within the first hour, and I continue to find it touching that so many people wanted to permanently memorialize their visit (don’t worry—we had plenty of temporary tattoos on hand, too).

In a room filled with people, a man with a light skin tone is getting a tattoo on his left arm. He is wearing a black t-shirt and has several tattoos on his right arm. The tattoo artist is a woman with a dark skin tone wearing a denim shirt.
Bibi Abelle tattoos a visitor with one of her fine-line designs based on NMWA’s collection; Photo by Elyse Cosgrove/Asico Photo

The day also featured the first use of our brand-new flexible studio/classroom. Visitors colored postcards—custom designed by artist Amy Wike—and designed buttons inspired by the museum’s collection. I guarantee this was the first of many art-making moments in this space.

Four women of different ages sit at a white table in a large studio/classroom space. They use colored pencils to color a postcard-size paper. In the background many other people are in the room at other tables doing the same.
In the new studio/classroom, visitors colored NMWA-themed postcards designed by artist Amy Wike; Photo by Elyse Cosgrove/Asico Photo

To close out this momentous day, the brilliant performers from Batalá Washington filled the Great Hall with their rousing drumbeats. I can think of no better way to cap off such a festive and joyous moment for NMWA. I am thankful for the time and talent of everyone who helped make the day such a success.

A group of women wearing bright red, black, and white printed dresses play large drums with similar designs on them. They are smiling up at the camera.
Drummers from Batalá Washington perform; Photo by Elyse Cosgrove/Asico Photo

I want to share heartfelt thanks to everyone who brought this entire project to life: supporters and friends, architects and engineers, construction and installation crews, and NMWA staff, who worked around the clock to prepare for this grand reopening. And to the reader, to friends of the museum and those who haven’t made the trip yet, we are ready for you.

Related Posts