Benin Bronzes to blink-182
Back together and it feels so good: The original blink-182 tours next year and comes to D.C. in May; Credit: Jack Bridgland

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Lots has happened since our last arts news roundup. There’s no time to waste as we delve into everything happening right now within the city’s arts scene. One notable highlight is the return of the Benin bronzes to Nigeria. Keeping reading for more news you can use.

Back the Bronze: On Oct. 11, the National Museum of African Art, the National Gallery of Art, and the Rhode Island School of Design Museum returned 31 Benin bronzes to the National Commission for Museums and Monuments in Nigeria. The move comes several months after the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents voted to deaccession the 29 Benin bronzes in its collection in keeping with the Smithsonian’s new ethical returns policy. The pieces were stolen from Nigeria in 1897 during a British raid on Benin City’s Royal Palace. A ceremony, held early Tuesday, in conjunction with the National Gallery of Art, formalized the transfer of ownership. These Benin bronzes are the first items to be returned to their community of origin following the new returns policy announced earlier this year, which considers the circumstances behind the acquisition as well as how items were originally acquired. However, another 20 Benin bronzes are currently part of the National Museum of Natural History’s collection. The origin of those pieces has been researched as well and will be submitted to the Board of Regents for additional deaccessioning. Prince Aghatise Erediauwa, representing the Kingdom of Benin, was in attendance, as were Lai Mohammed, the minister of Information and Culture of Nigeria; Kaywin Feldman, director of the National Gallery of Art; Ngaire Blankenberg, director of the National Museum of African Art, and Lonnie Bunch, secretary of the Smithsonian.

“Nigeria is immensely gratified at the commendable decision of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, the National Gallery of Art, and the Rhode Island School of Design to return these artifacts that left Africa over a century ago,” Mohammed says in the museum’s press release. “By returning the artifacts, these institutions are together writing new pages in history. Their brave decision to return the timeless artworks is worth emulating.”

Benin kingdom court style; Nigeria; 19th century; Copper alloy; H x W x D: 38.1 x 24.4 x 27 cm (15 x 9 5/8 x 10 5/8 in.); Ceremonial Head of a King. Photograph by Franko Khoury, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution

Expanding the Canon: Seven newly selected playwrights have been commissioned by Theater J to create original full-length works that center on ethnically and racially diverse Jewish narratives. Under the local theater’s 2022 initiative, Expanding the Canon, the program aims to broaden, as well as correct, the “historically limited portrayals of Jewishness on stages in the U.S. and around the world,” according to Tuesday’s announcement. The nationally renowned theater is known for its dedication to telling stories on the complexities and nuances of both the Jewish experience and the universal human condition. The seven playwrights were selected from 82 submissions. With the goal of producing new work within the next two and a half years, they will each receive a $10,000 commission and a $5,000 developmental budget that can be used for readings, workshops, research, and travel to develop their work. Though the public is just learning of the selected writers, the program kicked off in August with the playwrights attending a three day intensive led by nationally recognized Jewish leader Rosh Beit Sabrina Sojourner. Throughout the program, the writers will continue to meet monthly and excerpts of the finished scripts are expected to be shared in December 2024.

“Being from a mixed family of Ashkenazi and Mexican Syrian Jewish descent, I have always understood the Jewish experience to be more vibrant and diverse than the majority of Jewish playwriting,” Theater J’s Managing Director David Lloyd Olson states in the press release. “We are grateful for the support of the Covenant Foundation whose funding will help us add layers to the portrait of Jewishness by commissioning plays that center the multi-racial and multi-ethnic stories that have always been and will continue to be a part of the Jewish experience.” 

Kendall Pinkney (l), Jesse Jae Hoon, Zachariah Ezer, (Seated left) Carolivia Herron, Harley Elias, Thaddeus McCants, M.J. Kang; Credit: Dennis Drenner

I’m Feeling This: Millennials across the country lost their pop-punk shit this morning when Live Nation announced the reunion of the original blink-182 trio. Yes, it was trending on Twitter. After nearly a decade, Mark Hoppus, Tom DeLonge, and Travis Barker will not only partake in blink’s biggest tour ever, but they’re also dropping new music. The single “Edging” will be available for streaming on Friday, Oct. 14. Just like touring, it’s been about a decade since the original three set foot in a studio together. DeLonge quit (or took a break from) the band in 2015 and was replaced by Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba. Six years later, Hoppus accidentally told the world via Instagram that he was battling B-cell lymphoma, an aggressive form of blood cancer. According to a great GQ profile, the three bandmates reunited as friends to support Hoppus: “In any case, DeLonge would soon visit Hoppus’s house, and because the universe works in strange ways, Barker happened to be there as well,” Chris Gayomali wrote in a piece published in December 2021. “The three of them sat in Hoppus’s backyard for hours, opening their hearts up to one another, talking about everything. DeLonge went deep about his father’s death and the metaphysics of the universe and learning to heal. They talked about old wounds within the band and the scars they’ve accumulated along the way.” The tour, which runs from March 2023 through February 2024, stops in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, and blink will play D.C.’s Capital One Arena on May 23, 2023. Tickets will go on sale Monday, Oct. 17, at 10 a.m.

Once More With Feeling: Theatre Week will go on—for one more week, that is. Deemed Theatre Washington’s encore, the nearly monthlong event, which offers discounted tickets to plays throughout the region as well as free events, the “week” was due to end on Oct. 9. But thanks to a partnership between Theatre Washington and Goldstar, discounted tickets for more than 40 D.C.-area productions will be available through Oct. 16, even for shows that haven’t opened yet. That includes Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at Olney Theatre Center, Into the Woods at Signature Theatre, The Till Trilogy at Mosaic Theater Company, Intimate Apparel at Theater J, and Angels in America at Arena Stage.

Hundred Years Young: Starting next month, the National Museum of Asian Art will kick off its 100th anniversary with a yearlong celebration that intends to “deepen the understanding of Asian arts and cultures and reach new audiences.” One standout event to prepare for is the two-week festival for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, running May 1 through 13. According to the press release, this will be the museum’s first large-scale festival in recognition of AAPI heritage month since the Freer Gallery of Art opened to the public in 1923, coincidentally, as the country’s first national museum of art.