Pop-Up Museum in Silver Spring
Most pop-up museums are pretty straightforward. They are short-term institutions in temporary spaces.
The Smithsonian Asian-Latino Festival 2013 held its final event, a pop-up museum called “Intersections As American Life,” at the literal intersection of Fenton Street and Ellsworth Drive in downtown Silver Spring. My neighbor Fran Rothstein invited me to pop in with her to the pop up.
Although most pop ups are here today and gone tomorrow, this one was spread over two days, August 7 and 8 and centered in Veterans Plaza. It was part of a month-long series of events that included panel discussions on cultural intersections on food, art and thought. The Silver Spring Town Center was one of the sponsors.
Visit Intersections as American Life for more information about the festival.
Sometimes the pop-up museum visitors bring exhibit items to share with the public. Other times, the institutions provide the items and the entertainment. I’m used to visiting a museum building and looking at an exhibit, interacting where I can, and leaving. At this one, Fran and I kept waiting for something to happen: Speeches, pageant plays, poetry, food … something.
Initially no exhibitions were obvious. Taped music from speakers blasted a little too loudly across the plaza. People sat on the retaining walls talking in small groups. The very curious among us gathered pamphlets from an information table set on one side of the plaza floor. Then, after sunset on this hot, sticky night, the works of Asian and Latino artists from across the country were projected onto surrounding buildings, retaining walls and the plaza floor.
Visit Art Intersections for an online “look book” introducing the artists and some of their work.
Interns manning information table told us that the purpose of the festival and the pop up was to raise awareness and money for museums yet to be. But why celebrate Asian and Latino artists together? What’s the connection?
Mexico and Latin America are two major ones, explained Smithsonian Latino Center director Eduardo Diaz to Fran and myself. Places like Acapulco, he said, were important stops along Asian-Pacific-Mexican trade routes. Some Asian workers stayed in Mexico, had families and later immigrated to North America. These days the US Asian Latino population is comprised of people born here, Spanish-speaking Filipinos who worked along side Latinos in the agriculture or cannery industries, and the descendants of Puerto Rican laborers who went to Hawaii during the late 19th century. And I’m sure there are even more connections.
To read more about what one of the festival’s artists says about being American, visit Asian and Latino Artists Weigh In On a Changing America.
The Asian American and Latino communities are the two fastest growing populations in the US, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center director Lawrence-Minh Davis told a panel in July. They are showing up “not just in places like California, but really all over as we become a more diverse country.” Davis is initiative coordinator at the Latino Center.
The Festival celebrates a connection that is not widely known or taught facet of American history. Next time you hear about a Smithsonian pop-up, you might want to pop in, too!