Tanagra: The Builders, New York
Childe Hassam - 1918
Smithsonian American Art Museum - Washington DC (United States)
Painting - oil on canvas
Height: 149.23 cm (58.75 in.), Width: 149.23 cm (58.75 in.)


When you walk into the Smithsonian’s “Art of the Qur'an” exhibition, you’re met with a book that weighs 150 pounds. The tome, which dates back to the late-1500s, has giant pages that are covered in gold and black Arabic script.

“Somebody spent a lot of time, probably years, to complete this manuscript,” says curator Massumeh Farhad. “… The size tells you a great deal about it. I mean, clearly this was not a manuscript that could have been taken out every day for private reading. This was a manuscript that was intended for public display.”

That manuscript is among more than 50 centuries-old Qurans on display at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C. The exhibition isn’t about the words of the Quran so much as the people who laboriously copied the book, letter by letter. Some of their names are listed (one manuscript was written by a vizier, or prime minister, of the Ottoman Empire), but most of the creators are unknown.

Quran Exhibition Shines A Light On The Holy Books’ Dedicated Artists

Photos: Raquel Zaldivar/NPR


Dorlyn Catron’s cane is making its radio debut today — its name is Pete. (“He’s important to my life. He ought to have a name,” she says.)

Catron is participating in one of the America InSight tours at Washington, D.C.’s Smithsonian American Art Museum. The museum offers twice-a-month tours, led by specially trained docents, to blind and visually impaired visitors.

Docent Betsy Hennigan stops the group of nine visitors in front of Girl Skating — a small bronze sculpture from 1907 by Abestenia Saint Leger Eberle. The roller-skating girl is full of joy. The visitors — of varied ages, races and backgrounds — stand close together, hands on top of their long canes, facing Hennigan as she describes the artwork: The little girl careens forward, arms outstretched, her hair and her dress flow behind her.

Carol Wilson trains the 12 volunteer docents. “Sight isn’t the only pathway to understand art,” she says. Wilson suggests the docents invite visitors to imitate the pose of a sculpture, and use other senses in their verbal descriptions.

Blind Art Lovers Make The Most Of Museum Visits With ‘InSight’ Tours

Photos: Raquel Zaldivar/NPR

Dear Friends

There will be no post today despite my previous plans, and Sunday’s post for the very first time may be delayed. I have decided to take a day for myself to reflect on Tuesday’s shocking results and comfort my friends and colleagues who are deeply troubled by them. I will be going to the museums in DC and reminding myself of the power of art in these trying times.

This is not a political statement. I have no hidden agenda in this blog. My goal, like the goals of the rest of my colleagues in the field of urbanism, is to promote better, more livable, sustainable communities and to promote others to care about architecture, which I love so much.

I believe that above all art, music, architecture and design are for the betterment of humanity. In a time that is so divisive, I hope that we can come together to ultimately understand each other and what is best for the world. I will return next week to a normal schedule and continue my campaign to educate about our built environment to people of all beliefs, color, gender, sexual orientation and yes, political ideology.

Building a better world is for all of us.

Eastman Johnson (1824-1906)
“The Girl I Left Behind Me” (1872)
Oil on canvas
Located in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC, United States

The painting’s title refers to an old Irish song that became a popular regimental ballad during the Civil War. Johnson’s viewers might have recalled the lyrics:

My mind her full image retains
Whether asleep or awaken’d
hope to see my jewel again
For her my heart is breaking.

Granite gneiss

Slab of granite from Homagama, Sri Lanka, displayed at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Washington, DC.

From the accompanying caption: “The cold slab of polished gneiss belies its hot tortuous past. The multicolored layers are visible testimony that the original rock – a granite – was deformed, metamorphosed, and partly melted deep inside the Earth’s crust.”