Día de los Muertos
NOW's 2019 Día de los Muertos Concert with Choral Arts at the Mexican Cultural Institute; Credit: Dan Ahn

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Friday: Día de los Muertos at the Kennedy Center

The results of a 2014 study on diversity in the country’s top orchestras should surprise nobody: There’s not much of it. In 2014, the League of American Orchestras found that in top ensembles, only 1.8 percent of players were Black and 2.5 percent Latinx. A 2021 report that looked at 100 orchestras around the world, including 14 in the U.S., coughed up similarly dismal statistics. The state of orchestral diversity makes this Friday’s Día de los Muertos concert at the Kennedy Center an especially special treat. The show takes place just a few days after Día de los Muertos, a jubilant Mexican celebration that honors loved ones who have died. Commissioned by the New Orchestra of Washington (NOW) and the Choral Arts Society of Washington, the Día de los Muertos programming features and honors Mexican composers and performers. Steering the ship is conductor Alejandro Hernandez-Valdez, originally from Guadalajara, who serves as NOW’s artistic director. The program features Mexican classical classics such as famed composer José Pablo Moncayo’s “Huapango,” which celebrates dance traditions of Veracruz, and “Redes,” a 1934 film score by revered violinist and composer Silvestre Revueltas. The program also features the world premiere of “Cantos de Requiem,” composed by Mexico City’s Jorge Vidales, an up-and-comer who is making a name for himself with his classical compositions that depart from the nationalistic musical tendencies of many Mexican composers that came before him. The works featured in Friday’s program hit on melancholic, bittersweet, and euphoric notes. In that sense, the program is a fitting mirror to Día de los Muertos itself. The Día de los Muertos program starts at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 4 at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW. kennedy-center.org. $45–$59. —Ella Feldman

Sunday: The Utopia Project Opening Celebration at the Anacostia Community Museum 

Crocheted Protest Sign Displayed at Lafayette Square, Washington, DC, London Kaye, 2020. Fiber and synthetic fiber. Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution. (After George Floyd’s murder, London Kaye channeled her feelings into crocheting and traveled to D.C. to install her yarn artwork at Black Lives Matter Plaza.)

The Anacostia Community Museum will host an innovative new exhibition beginning this November. The Utopia Project: Inspiration for Creative Activism is an interactive gallery experience that deconstructs the reasons why social change takes place. “The Utopia Project reimagines storytelling using the community-centered approach forged by John Kinard, the museum’s founding director,” Asantewa Boakyewa, the museum’s supervisory program manager, tells City Paper. “Visitors use the visual cues of the museum’s collections to imagine themselves as changemakers empowered to create individual and communal utopias.” In addition to the interactive elements, the exhibit features objects, photos, and stories from the museum’s collection, turning theoretical ideas into real world examples of people making a difference in their community. Accounts of these historical changemakers, the Black Panther Party’s “Free Breakfast” program for example, serve to remind us that the ingredients for change reside in each one of us. The Utopia Project will also work as the Smithsonian’s debut of Yetunde Sapp’s Breonna Taylor mural. The local multidisciplinary artist says, “I painted a series of street art murals around the city during the 2020 protests…The Breonna Taylor mural was originally displayed at Lafayette Square and was painted on the plywood (used to protect buildings from vandalism).” Sapp was selected as a 2021 Gucci Changemaker Scholar for her artistic creativity and commitment to social justice. The exhibit’s opening reception takes place Sunday, Nov. 6. Guests will have the opportunity to meet and greet the artists and activists featured in the exhibition, take futuristic photos at the selfie stations, and enjoy free half smokes courtesy of Ben’s Chili Bowl. DJ Mello T will perform live during the event. The exhibition was created in collaboration with the Center for Artistic Activism, a nonprofit organization that empowers people to use their creativity and culture to create change. Founders Stephen Duncombe and Steve Lambert are the authors of The Art of Activism: Your All-Purpose Guide to Making the Impossible Possible, a book that contains the compelling principles illustrated in The Utopia Project. The Utopia Project will be on display through March 1, 2023, but the opening celebration starts at 3 p.m. on Nov. 6 at the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum, 1901 Fort Pl. SE. anacostia.si.edu. Free. Sidney Thomas

Wednesday: Paris at Midnight at the Kennedy Center

Accordion player Simone Baron performs at Paris at Midnight: Jazz and Surrealism in the 1920s; courtesy of KRPR

I could be convinced to fly to Paris at any time of year. But the fall, when the Paris of my imagination is red and gold and the Tower flashes against a gloomy gray sky, feels especially compelling. A nonstop flight from Dulles to Paris costs, prohibitively, $883 as of this writing. Luckily, the PostClassical Ensemble has put together a performance that may be the next best thing. It’s a trip to the city, but with a twist: not Paris of today, but Paris of the 1920s. In this decade, the Parisian art scene was moving in two main directions; both were reactions to World War I’s horror. Neoclassicism was a return to order, reviving the classical style of art, literature, music, and (eventually) dance. Igor Stravinsky in music, George Balanchine in ballet, and Pablo Picasso in his early years embodied this movement. Dadaism, on the other hand, was a rejection of order through shocking, nonsensical, surrealist works. African and African American art and culture thrived in this era as well, and Paris at Midnight: Jazz and Surrealism in the 1920s pulls these threads together. Curated by Harry Cooper, senior curator of modern art at the National Gallery of Art, the program will recreate four then-major works through film and live performance: René Clair’s 1924 surrealist film Entr’acte with Erik Satie’s original score performed live, Josephine Baker dancing on film, a Sidney Bechet jazz set, and Maurice Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G. The latter will be performed live by soloist Drew Petersen. Paris at Midnight: Jazz and Surrealism in the 1920s starts at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 9 at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, 2700 F St. NW. postclassical.com. $45.Mary Scott Manning 

Wednesday: Plains at Howard Theatre

Plains, courtesy of Grandstand Media

There’s a special kind of nostalgia we have for the music we grew up with. Even if it starts to feel uncool later in life, there’s an emotional tether that’s hard to break. On I Walked With You A Ways, Plains—a collaboration between Jess Williamson and Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield—unearth their country roots. The album is a natural progression of country lineage in line with the Chicks, the Judds, and Loretta Lynn—it’s the sound of two women returning to the music of their youth by way of the indie sensibilities they each explored in successful solo projects. Their show on Nov. 9 will transport the audience from Howard Theatre to a small town in West Texas. On songs like “Abilene” and “Bellafatima,” Williamson’s clear voice conjures that imagery directly—pining for a coffee shop, a liquor store, or a different ending. But regret, that old country trope, is hard to find on this album. Instead, these are songs by and about women who are aware of their past and have made their peace with it. On “Line of Sight,” Crutchfield opens with “Lord, if I’m wrong set me straight,” and follows on “Hurricane,” singing, “I come in like a cannonball/ I’ve been that way my whole life.” Lead single “Problem With It” will resonate with anyone who has walked away from a partner who wasn’t offering enough, while title track “I Walked With You a Ways” finds beauty in the temporality of a relationship. Throughout, Plains render these narratives with beautifully layered harmonies—the interplay of Crutchfield and Williamson’s distinct voices should be just as captivating live. Plains perform Nov. 9 at 8 p.m. at Howard Theatre, 620 T St. NW. thehowardtheatre.com. $30.Sarah Wassel

Weekdays: An Artist in Greece at the Embassy of Greece

Courtesy of the Embassy of Greece

Painter, printmaker, and author Catherine Kernan calls Mixit Print Studio in Somerville, Massachusetts, her homebase. But the source of her artistic inspiration and the origin of her most current exhibition is thousands of miles away. In 1973, Kernan ended up on the Greek island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea. She stayed for nine months, and when she left, she says, she had the discipline and drive to define herself as an artist. In the roughly 50 years since, Kernan has returned to Greece and the Greek islands eight times, refining her artistic relationship with the country and creating a wealth of paintings and sketches. As she puts it, “By returning repeatedly to Greece, I internalized something of its essential nature. My visual focus moved closer to identifiable sites, and my work became more intimate and less abstract, more visceral and tactile and less cerebral.” Now, in a so-called “visual diary,” Kernan is bringing those decades of art and experience to the Embassy of Greece through An Artist in Greece: Travel Sketches, Paintings, and Prints 1973-2021. The exhibition shows Kernan’s art evolve and transform as the years passed. One of her earliest watercolor paintings from her first trip to Patmos, “Nisia,” is on display. Also featured are “Windswept Pines at Zephryos’ House,” an intaglio etching from 1999; “Kampos Paths,” an oil painting on board from 1998; and “Agios Nicola,” a walnut ink and bamboo pen sketch from 2017. For a chance to see Greece through Kernan’s eyes and to perhaps source your own artistic inspiration, don’t miss this show. An Artist in Greece runs through Nov. 30 at the Embassy of Greece, 2217 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Weekdays 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. mfa.gr. Free.Sarah Smith