In the lead-up to the passing of the keys to the White House, Washington, D.C., is giving entirely new meaning to the “party system.” Most hotels have been sold out for months; Craigslist is overstocked with temporary rentals. Celebrities are beginning to arrive while some locals are debating how to escape. Popular bridges will be closed, but local bars will be pouring drinks until 4 a.m.
Inaugurations happen every four years, but there has never been one so filled with anticipation, parties, shows and other festivities as this one. Never mind that Aretha Franklin and Yo-Yo Ma are performing at President-elect Barack Obama’s swearing-in ceremony Tuesday. Washington’s galleries, museums and clubs are playing host as well.
We’ve put together a diverse listing of some of the city’s many cultural offerings for inauguration week and the rest of January. All events are open to the public, though some carry hefty ticket prices and some sold out almost immediately. All inconveniences aside, there’s something going on for everyone to have a ball.
MANIFEST HOPE: DC (Saturday, Jan. 17 through Monday, Jan. 19)
First organized in Denver at the Democratic National Convention, the Washington edition of this juried art show asked artists to send in works inspired by three categories: health care reform, workers’ rights and the green economy. This “visual call-to-action” is sponsored by Moveon.org, Service Employees International Union and Obey Giant, studio of artist Shepard Fairey, who created the ubiquitous Obama campaign posters.
OBAMA: The Historic Campaign in Pictures (Saturday, Jan. 17 through Monday, Jan. 19)
Authors Deborah Willis and Kevin Merida delve into images of the election. They’ll read and sign copies of “OBAMA: The Historic Campaign in Pictures” at the Anacostia Community Museum on Saturday, Jan. 17. There’s free bus transportation from the Mall to the museum for most of the inaugural weekend.
International Inaugural Ball (Saturday, Jan. 17)
An international affair, the Ball will feature a fashion show by former Project Runway contestant Korto Momolu. Following the show, Kindred the Family Soul will perform, and guests can wander through rooms inspired by the music and movements of African and Caribbean beats.
We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial (Sunday, Jan. 18)
The biggest names in music assemble at the Lincoln Memorial the Sunday before the swearing-in. Beyonce. Mary J. Blige. U2. Garth Brooks. Renee Fleming. Herbie Hancock. Usher. Shakira. Bruce Springsteen. James Taylor. Stevie Wonder. The musical headliners go on and on. Jamie Foxx, Queen Latifah, Denzel Washington and Martin Luther King III will read passages of historical texts. Unlike the Creative Coalition Ball, another celebrity-heavy event, this one is free and open to the public. You can catch it on HBO if you’re not in town or don’t feel like braving the crowds or forecasted low temps.
Obama Wonderama! (Sunday, Jan. 18)
The Warehouse, an endangered performance and gallery space near downtown hosts an unconventional night of burlesque, a Coney Island-style sideshow, belly dancing and more. While the future of the space remains uncertain, its embrace of all things art proves it is very much still vital.
The Hirshhorn Museum’s Wishing Tree (Sunday, Jan. 18 through Tuesday, Jan. 20)
Performance artist and icon Yoko Ono storms the Smithsonian …with wishes. In the museum’s outdoor sculpture garden on the Mall, visitors will be invited to write messages for the future and add them to Yoko Ono’s Wish Tree.
Kids’ Inaugural Concert (Monday, Jan. 19)
Michelle Obama, Jill Biden and their families will host this event geared for kids. Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, Demi Lovato and Bow Wow will sing. Billy Ray Cyrus, Keke Palmer, Usher and Shaquille O’Neal are also scheduled to appear. It’s at the Verizon Center and admission is free. It’ll also be on the Disney Channel from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
The Big Shoulders Inauguration Ball (Monday, Jan. 19)
Chicago exports its indie rock scene to the Black Cat. Andrew Bird, Ted Leo and Tortoise play at this sold out “ball” hosted by the Interchange Festival and the Hideout, a Chicago music and watering hole institution. Proceeds go to the Chicago Public Schools marching bands program and the Future of Music Coalition. Thrift-store-bought ball gowns encouraged.
Jay-Z in Concert on the Eve of Change (Monday, Jan. 19)
The hip-hop artist and activist brings his act to historic Warner Theater. The concert is not Jay-Z’s first vocal support of Obama; he penned, with other music icons, Diddy and Mary J Blige, an open letter encouraging the election of Obama, as well as giving him requisite shout-outs on his recent “Heart of the City” tour.
“Hey, America Feels Kinda Cool Again” (Monday, Jan. 19)
Rock the Vote brings Sheryl Crow and the Beastie Boys to a sold-out 9:30 Club.
Oprah Winfrey’s Inauguration Celebration (Monday, Jan. 19)
Oprah brings her show to Washington, where she will tape live from the Kennedy Center. Tune in Jan. 19 and 22.
Neighborhood Inaugural Ball (Tuesday, Jan. 20)
The first party that Barack Obama will attend as president, a star lineup will perform, including Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Alicia Keys, Jay-Z, Beyonce and Stevie Wonder. As of early Wednesday afternoon, tickets to the free event have not been released. Some tickets will be reserved for Washington, D.C., residents. It’s at the Washington Convention Center. The Neighborhood Ball will air on ABC from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Creative Coalition’s Gala Inaugural Ball (Tuesday, Jan. 20)
Obama was criticized during the campaign for being too much of a celebrity. Tonight, at the Creative Coalition’s Gala, the celebrities come out in force. Tickets started at $10,000. Ron Howard, Spike Lee, Susan Sarandon, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard are among the attendees. Elvis Costello, Sting, and R&B legend Sam Moore perform.
Fairey’s “Barack Obama” on Display at the National Portrait Gallery (Tuesday, Jan. 20)
It’s not often iconic art is born. But Shepard Fairey’s portrait of Barack Obama has taken on that kind of status. The National Portrait Gallery acquired the original from local art collectors Heather and Tony Podesta. It will be on display in the “New Arrivals” floor of the museum by Inauguration Day.
American Music Inaugural Balls (Tuesday, Jan. 20)
Twin inaugural balls honor legendary R&B acts, as well as up-and-comers. Dionne Warwick hosts the Legends Ball, while rapper Ludacris hosts the Urban Ball. George Clinton, Chaka Khan, the Temptations (with Dennis Edwards), Cedric the Entertainer, the Cheetah Girls and Bobby Valentino perform.
Quilts for Obama: An Exhibit Celebrating the Inauguration of our 44th President (Sunday, Jan. 11 through Saturday, Jan. 31)
Quilts from across the country will be on display at the Historical Society of Washington, D.C. They include work from four African countries (Kenya, South Africa, Liberia and Ghana), historical quilts from Hawaii and Kansas, and local contributions. Also featured: a large quilt by Carrie Nelson, the oldest living member of Michelle Obama’s family.
Politics by Design: The Art of Inspiration (Friday, Jan. 2 through Sunday, Jan. 25)
With a wired White House on the horizon, it’s only fitting that gallery Dissident Display will show art that was all obtained electronically. Artists from across the country submitted graphic designs of poster art. The exhibition speaks to the “Obama iconographic machine,” but also to the role that technology, specifically the internet, played in the election.