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Smithsonian releases its third installment of Second Opinion: "The State of the Arts in 21st-Century America"
What role do the arts play in the nation’s success and identity?

WASHINGTON, DC.- The Smithsonian released its third installment of Second Opinion: “The State of the Arts in 21st-Century America,” which examines the importance, impact and future of the arts in America.

Launched in 2017, Second Opinion is a digital platform that convenes thought leaders to explore some of the critical issues facing our nation and the world. The site features a big idea or topic that is explored through a variety of different features, angles and points of view. The topics are reinforced by the breadth and depth of the Smithsonian’s reach and expertise. The site’s goal is to foster conversation and the understanding that different opinions which arise from the same set of facts can lead to better collaboration toward common goals. Second Opinion also seeks to engage local communities by providing educational materials from the Smithsonian that help convene conversations and drive thought leadership.

For “The State of the Arts,” Smithsonian Secretary David Skorton convened a discussion with María Magdalena Campos-Pons, artist and professor of studio art at Vanderbilt University; David Marcus, artistic director of Blue Box World and senior contributor to The Federalist; Rebecca Rabinow, director of the Menil Collection and Art Museum in Houston; and Peter Schjeldahl, senior art critic at The New Yorker.

The panelists analyzed the role of art museums in society, digitization and its impact on experiencing art, the moral obligations of artists, the importance of art in solving some of the challenges facing the world, and how museums can reach new audiences and become more accessible in the 21st century.

Several Smithsonian leaders also shared their perspectives and insights. Smithsonian Provost John Davis and Gus Casely-Hayford, the director of the National Museum of African Art, discussed the role of art as humanity’s common thread. Stephanie Stebich, the Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, shared five books she believes expand the definition of what art can be, and Melissa Chiu, the director of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, offered a list of five artists who are helping people better understand the modern art world.

Other content includes interviews with artists Ai Weiwei and Erwin Wurm; Paul Ha, director of MIT’s List Visual Arts Center; Stephanie Smith, director of the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia; and Jay Nordlinger, music critic and senior editor for National Review, among others.

Visitors to the Second Opinion site can listen to an episode of the Smithsonian’s podcast “Sidedoor” featuring an interview with Amy Sherald, the artist who painted the portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama that now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery. Also available are excerpts from Tom Stoppard’s play Travesties and the National Museum of American History’s O Say Can You See? blog about how the arts promote social change.

The fourth installment of Second Opinion is scheduled for later this year.

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