Home The Washington Diplomat April 2020 In Wake of Coronavirus, Embassies, Museums Offer Culture from Comfort of Your Couch

In Wake of Coronavirus, Embassies, Museums Offer Culture from Comfort of Your Couch


Washington, D.C., has one of the most globally diverse cultural scenes in the country, if not the world. And every month, The Washington Diplomat highlights the various international offerings around town with our popular events and film calendars.

Sadly, because the coronavirus pandemic essentially shut down the nation’s capital, we did not print a new calendar in April for the first time in 25 years.

But just as we’ve been forced to adapt to a new normal, so have arts organizations, museums and embassies, all of which are increasingly going digital to bring exhibitions, films, concerts, readings, dance performances, discussions and other events directly to viewers at home.

As a newspaper, we are doing the same thing as we significantly expand our digital footprint. On that note, we recently introduced a new webcast called Global 360 that not only breaks down the important headlines of the day, but also continues our exclusive coverage of the local arts scene with a “cultural corner” that highlights what’s happening around town (or, for now, from home).

To view past episodes, click on these links:

Diplomacy in an Age of Coronavirus:

Leadership During a Pandemic:


Global Crises Beyond Coronavirus:


Post-Pandemic Long-Term Threats:


On this page you’ll find comprehensive information on the events mentioned in the webcast, which will be continually updated, along with other interesting cultural tidbits. Here’s the latest:

Arena State Supper Club

Arena Stage opens its online spring/summer season with two world premiere films. The docudrama “May 22, 2020” premieres on June 12 and captures a day in the life of the D.C. region. It focuses on 10 people, ranging in age from 18 to 89, who come from a variety of backgrounds, including a climate change activist and a grandmother living alone.

Ten playwrights interviewed the subjects and created monologues based on those interviews to offer a window into how the coronavirus pandemic has altered life in the nation’s capital.

Meanwhile, “Inside Voices,” which premieres June 19, is a visual time capsule of the experiences of over 120 student artists.

To create a fully immersive supper club experience, Arena patrons can dine on cuisine delivered to their door from area restaurants while watching the premieres. Cuisine options include RIS, Cinder BBQ and Ridgewells Catering. Dinner prices for the supper club range from $60 to $99 for two people.

Capitol Riverfront BID “Friday Nights from Home” Concert Series

The Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District is taking its popular Friday Night Concert Series online this summer with entertainment and dining specials every Friday night at 7 p.m. throughout the month of June. In addition, it will offer a free virtual fitness series that features yoga on Saturdays at 9 a.m.; pilates on Tuesdays at 6 p.m.; and dance on Thursdays at 6 p.m.

Embassy of France 

With coronavirus dominating the headlines, an important, somber anniversary was overshadowed: the devastating fire on April 15, 2019, that almost burned down France’s iconic Notre Dame cathedral.

The medieval cathedral survived but the rebuilding process will be a long one. FrenchCulture.org is offering stunning virtual 3D tours of the cathedral both after the fire and exclusive footage filmed a few weeks before the flames erupted, allowing viewers to experience Notre Dame both before and after the tragic event.

In addition, the website is offering myriad ideas to experience French culture from home, including: hundreds of classical, symphonic, chamber music and jazz concerts from the France Musique radio station; a virtual visit of the Lascaux prehistoric cave; original video works of the Paris Opera; and a “POP platform” created by the French Ministry of Culture that is gathering all digital content related to French national heritage and ancient collections in one place to make it accessible to a large audience.

Embassy of the Czech Republic
Czech That Film

The Embassy of the Czech Republic is launching a stay-at-home edition of the Czech That Film Festival, which will run until June 7. Each week, a different film is featured online for a fee of $4. The festival opens with “Old-Timers (Starici),” which centers on two former political prisoners who seek revenge for the injustices done to them in the 1950s (based on true events).

Embassy of Sweden
Upcoming Events

#SwedenAtHome is the new digital campaign spearheaded by the House of Sweden to connect people to Swedish culture. Check out the embassy’s social media platforms for ideas such as Swedish television shows, art exhibitions, trivia and family-friendly activities.

Also, the embassy had the unfortunate timing of debuting its new year-long series of programming on “Smart Mobility: Taking Us into the Future” just as the coronavirus pandemic was grounding everything to a halt. While the House of Sweden is now closed to visitors, you can still check out the entire exhibition online to learn about how the Swedes have pioneered innovative mobility solutions with global impact. Two accompanying exhibitions showcase the country’s cutting-edge fashion designers.

Embassy of Korea’s Cultural Center 

“K-Culture at Home” presents weekly online content specials including webcast performances, educational activities, virtual gallery tours, cinema, lessons, discussions and much more from one of the most active embassy cultural centers in town.

Spain arts & culture 

The cultural arm of the Spanish Embassy offers a “mix-and-match” series of online programming, including: the just-launched English edition of Andrés Barba’s latest novel, “A Luminous Republic”; #MuseumsFromHome, which revisits the Prado Museum’s 2014 retrospective of Spanish painter El Greco, who was crucial to the development of what we call “modern painting”; and a curated collection of Spanish music available on Spotify.

In addition, two Spanish-language cafe discussions will be offered in June: actor Antonio Banderas on June 2 and 11:30 a.m. and Spanish marine biologist Alicia Pérez-Porro on June 9 at 11:30 a.m.

Ibero-American “Feel Good” Short Film Festival

The Iberoamerican Cultural Attachés Association hopes to lift everyone’s spirits with a selection of inspiring short films from 13 countries from May 29 to June 7. Films include “Amélia e Duarte” from Portugal and “Verde Green” from Colombia.

Embassy of Colombia

The Embassy of Colombia is supporting the “Let’s Take Care Now So We Can Meet Again Soon” campaign to keep interest alive in Colombia as a tourist destination. As part of the effort, ProColombia is broadcasting videos in Spanish, English and Portuguese on media outlets and on social media across eight countries.

And as part of #MuseumsFromHome, visitors can tour the house that belonged to famed liberator Simon Bolivar and the Museum of Memory of Colombia in Bogota, which won’t officially open until 2022 in Bogota but has held a few itinerant exhibitions. One of them, “Voices to transform Colombia,” is now virtually available.

Embassy of the Czech Republic
Czech That Film

The Embassy of the Czech Republic is launching a stay-at-home edition of the Czech That Film Festival, which will run until June 7. Each week, a different film is featured online for a fee of $4. The festival opens with “Old-Timers (Starici),” which centers on two former political prisoners who seek revenge for the injustices done to them in the 1950s (based on true events).

Italian Cultural Institute
The Art of Healing

IThe concept of displaying art in hospitals is not a new idea, but many people don’t realize that historically, women artists in Florence used the power of art to heal the body and soul. This Zoom webinar on June 4 at 4 p.m. rediscovers these long-forgotten women artists

National Air and Space Museum

This popular Smithsonian museum boasts a treasure trove of aviation-related content on its website. Each week, it highlights certain sections with its “Digital Discoveries” series, which examine achievements such as the Apollo 13’s “successful failure”; spy planes and aerial reconnaissance; and 30 years of the Hubble Space Telescope; and the timely “Launching from American Soil” following the recent successful launch of the SpaceX Crew Dragon to the International Space Station.

It also offers “Air and Space Anywhere,” which has a plethora of information, virtual tours and online activities, including those designed for students from kindergarten to 12th grade — perfect for parents trying to keep their kids busy at home.

Virtual Smithsonian Folklife Festival
Virtual Smithsonian Folklife Festival

While the 2020 Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall has been postponed, people can still experience the festival’s unique offerings with its online “Story Circle” via Facebook Live that features a rotating series of performances, music, art, recipes and conversations. Programs include “‘Ramadan and Connection” with Emirati entrepreneur Sana’a Amro; “Northeast to Southeast – Brazil in D.C. Music” with Christylez Bacon and Cizza Paz; and vocalist Aditya Prakash on tradition and innovation.

Kennedy Center Digital Programming
Couch Concerts

“Couch Concerts” is the Kennedy Center’s free, live digital performance initiative organized by the Millennium Stage that was created to help uplift and bring the performing arts from the homes of artists to homes across the country during these difficult times. Upcoming concerts include “Music and the Mind Live with Renée Fleming: At Home with Children – Musical Tool Kit” on June 2 and the National Symphony Orchestra’s “Portraits of America” on June 5.

Smithsonian Associates Streaming
Smithsonian Associates Streaming

The varied programming of the Smithsonian Associates has gone virtual. Highlights include: “A Decade of Disruption: America in the New Millennium,” in which historian Garrett Peck examines how the fallout from the Great Recession led to the hyper-polarized society we’re living in now (June 16); “The Paratrooper Generals of D-Day,” which focuses on the most important American campaign of World War II (June 23); and “Exploring World Heritage Sites in Asia,” a four-session course of both famous and lesser-known UNESCO World Heritage sites throughout Asia (June 25, July 9, July 23 and Aug. 6).

Library of Congress
Citizen DJ

The Library of Congress is celebrating its 220th birthday by giving music lovers a chance to play with Citizen DJ, a groundbreaking project that inspires hip-hop music-making from home and opens new doors to the library’s expansive audio collections. The open-source, web-browser application uses some of the library’s free-to-use audio and moving image collections to enable users to select short samples and create their own beats and sound mixes.

American University Museum
AU Museum at Home

The American University Museum, which typically hosts 20 to 30 exhibitions per year, has canceled its spring and summer shows but is offering a new initiative called “AU Museum at Home” as museum staff look to find new ways to connect with the community and bring patrons #artwhereyouare. To that end, the art and artists of the canceled shows are being shared through digital storytelling, artist playlists, collection highlights, children’s art tutorials, online gallery talks and other online offerings.

The IN Series
IN Series

The IN Series has created an entirely virtual season of opera-theater for 2020-2021 to adapt to the pandemic. The group’s artistic director, Timothy Nelson, said “this will not opera as usual, shrunk down to the small screen,” but rather will include features such as a specially designed virtual opera house, interactive opera experiences inspired by gaming technology and collaborations with filmmakers, animators, radio stations and others — all for free.

PostClassical Ensemble
PostClassical Ensemble

PostClassical Ensemble is an experimental orchestral laboratory founded in 2003 that seeks to radically alter the concert experience by integrating theater, dance and film. Check out its “More than Music The Russian Gershwin” performance here, which will be followed by two Zoom chats: “A Gershwin Roundtable” on June 4, featuring a live performance by jazz artist Karrin Allyson, and “Porgy and Bess Roundtable” on June 10 with George Shirley, the first African American tensor to sing lead roles at the Met.

Shakespeare Theatre Company
Virtual Mock Trial

The Shakespeare Theatre Company’s annual Mock Trial — “the funniest, most entertaining event in Washington” according to Roll Call — will be online for the first time on June 22 at 7:30 p.m. Judge Merrick Garland along with colleagues Amy Berman Jackson, Patricia Millett and Neomi Rao take the bench to preside over a legal dispute arising out of a re-imagined plot point in the Bard’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Tickets to the online event are $50.

GALA Hispanic Theatre 

This theater company focusing on Latino artists was hit with a double whammy during the pandemic: Its co-founder, Rebecca Medrano, came down with coronavirus in the midst of a production. Read all about her story in the Diplomatic Pouch here.

Fortunately Medrano has recovered and GALA is working to keep sharing its unique content online. On that note, the theater has introduced “GALA En Familia,” which will feature a 12-week series of films for children.

In “Los deseos de Carmela (Carmela’s Wishes,” the ninth episode, little Carmela wakes up on her birthday to wish come true: She can finally join her brother as he runs the family’s errands. After arriving at the laundromat, she spots a lone dandelion growing through the pavement. Her brother urges her to make a wish. Check out the show to find out what it is.

National Museum of Women in the Arts

Americans don’t always have a complete picture of life inside Mexico. Acclaimed Mexican contemporary photographer Graciela Iturbide challenges stereotypes and offers an inside look at her homeland with hauntingly complex black-and-white gelatin silver prints that are now on display at the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA).

You can check out the entire exhibition online at the NMWA’s website and read all about the show in our own article, “Graciela Iturbide Captures a More Nuances Portrayal of Her Homeland.

Synetic Theatre

This innovative theater company presents “The Decameron” starting on June 10 (pay-what-you-can options start at $10). Over 35 artists from Synetic’s 20-year history have connected while in isolation around the world to create the company’s first-ever online streaming production. In this virtual play, artists will adapt one story each from Giovanni Boccaccio’s “The Decameron,” a collection of novellas written in Italy in response to the Black Plague of 1347-1351.

“I have been getting stir-crazy and feeling sad not creating and collaborating, and now with this project I’m feeling alive again,” said Synetic’s founding artistic director, Paata Tsikurshvili. “The historical connection to Italy — the other epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic — felt like kismet. Then, as now, ‘The Decameron’ showcases the power of storytelling in creating a community of equality and prosperity out of social isolation.”

Studio Theatre

In keeping with this theater’s commitment to provocative work in intimate spaces, “Studio Recommends” offers recommendations that span genres and mediums, from podcasts and audio plays to books, cinema, streaming entertainment and social media tidbits.

Highlights include Studio-commissioned playwright James Ijames, who started publishing three-line plays every day for the first four weeks of social distancing in Philadelphia, where he works and lives; the beloved series “Fleabag,” based on Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s one-woman show; and the highly timely “Station Eleven,” an intense, haunting novel about a roving theater troupe that keeps remnants of the old culture alive — largely by performing Shakespeare and symphonies — 20 years after a pandemic has decimated the world population.

Also check out our article on Studio’s last show, “Pass Over,” a searing play that doesn’t discriminate in challenging both whites and blacks about preconceived notions of race. The play may be over but a filmed version is available through Amazon Prime.

If your organization is presenting digital events, you can email the press release to agawel@washdiplomat.com.

Anna Gawel (@diplomatnews) is the managing editor of The Washington Diplomat.


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