Art Works Blog

Did You Know...? (Presidential Inauguration Edition)

Did you know for the 1977 inauguration of Jimmy Carter, the Democratic National Committee commissioned Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Jamie Wyeth, Jacob Lawrence, and Robert Rauschenberg to create works commemorating the event? In recent years, the limited edition prints from the Inaugural Impressions have sold for thousands of dollars at auction.

Did you know that at President Kennedy’s 1961 inauguration, Robert Frost was unable to recite the poem he had written specifically for the event? Snow covered the ground that day, and the glare prevented Frost from being able to see the manuscript of his new piece, “Dedication.” Instead, he recited his poem “The Gift Outright” from memory.

Did you know that in addition to Frost, three other poets have recited work at presidential inaugurations? Maya Angelou recited “On the Pulse of Morning” at Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration, Miller Williams recited “Of History and Hope” at Clinton’s second inauguration in 1997, and Elizabeth Alexander read “Praise Song for the Day” at President Obama’s inauguration four years ago. On Monday, Richard Blanco will become the fifth poet to join this elite group when he reads at President Obama’s second inauguration. Interestingly, Blanco was named after Richard Nixon.

Did you know that what is now the Smithsonian American Art Museum was once the site of Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural ball? At that time, the museum was the Patent Office Building; it wouldn’t open as part of the Smithsonian until 1968. Tickets to the ball were a whopping $10, and admitted “one gentleman and two ladies.”

Did you know that musicians who have received the National Medal of Arts have been popular picks as inaugural performers? In fact, President Obama featured four at his first inauguration: Aretha Franklin, John Williams, Izthak Perlman, and Yo-Yo Ma. At this Monday’s ceremony, medal recipient James Taylor will be a part of the musical lineup.

Did you know that a major public art project is planned for President Obama's second inauguration? A Thousand Artists hopes to have dozens of artists on-hand in DC to create visual impressions of the weekend's inaugural events.

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