2021 Fall Arts Preview

In these challenging times, the arts feed our souls, whether we’re hearing a new song for the first time, watching a dramatic scene play out on stage, or gazing at a spectacular painting. Perhaps more anticipated than ever, the D.C. fall arts scene is back and looking to thrive. As the autumnal season arrives, we’re celebrating the return of in-person performances and exhibits and plenty of outdoor arts activities. With so many major arts institutions in our area celebrating milestone anniversaries, keep an eye out for special offerings. Here are a few highlights for the visual and performing arts as well as events worth mentioning. As always, don’t forget to check each venue’s Covid policies before visiting. Enjoy the season!  

Highlights – The Performing Arts 

The Kennedy Center is Back and Better than Ever 

The Kennedy Center is celebrating 50 years with an abundance of performances and live music. Coming this October, the critically acclaimed “Hadestown,” winner of eight Tony Awards including Best Musical and the 2020 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. Hadestown is playing from October 13-31. Proof of full vaccination against Covid-19 is required to attend all indoor performances and events. Masks are always required in all indoor areas for patrons and visitors regardless of vaccination status.  

The Washington Ballet Premiers at the National Building Museum 

On October 21 and 22, the Washington Ballet is hosting their season opening hour-long performance at The National Building Museum. Following the Thursday evening performance, a special event will be held.   

Another Pre-Broadway Run Comes to the District 

In November, another musical comes to town for a pre-Broadway run (see “Mean Girls” circa 2017) with the premiere of “Once Upon a One More Time.” The Shakespeare Theatre Company is producing the pre-Broadway run of the musical based on the hits of pop icon Britney Spears. This upcoming holiday season, the show will provide a family-friendly entertainment option. For those wondering about the show’ premise, viewers will follow princesses such as Cinderella and Snow White on their feminist journeys — “smashing the glass slipper” is a tagline for the show.   

D.C. Chamber Dance Project Reimagines Works on Film at the Kennedy Center  

The D.C. Chamber Dance Project, the area’s premiere modern ballet company, has reimagined their new works as a series of films. They are set to premiere Thursday October 7 at 6:30 and 8 p.m. at the Kennedy Center. 

Highlights – The Visual Arts 

The Phillips Collection’s Special Exhibition on David Driskell 

The Phillips Collection is celebrating 100 years and this October 16, a special exhibit is featured through January 9, 2022 only. The exhibit pays homage to David Driskell (1931-2020), recognized for his vibrant art rooted in the American landscape and connection to the African diaspora. His work is crucial to remembering that the art of Black people is essential to the history of American art.  

The National Gallery of Art Celebrates Mid-century Female Photographers 

From October 31 through January 30, 2022, the National Gallery of Art is hosting an exhibit featuring over 120 international photographers. “The New Woman Behind the Camera” looks at the women who took on photography as a mode of professional or personal expression from the 1920s through the 1950s. The women—independent, stylish and confident—had a huge impact on modern photography.  

The National Portrait Gallery Reminds Us of the Importance of Knowing Our City 

Knowing the history of where you live is so vital, and the National Portrait Gallery is helping us on this journey. Their exhibit “Block by Block: Naming Washington,” takes viewers on an adventure exploring the namesakes of D.C.’s streets, neighborhoods and public places. Sixteen reproductions of portraits drawn from the museum’s collection are showcased. The gallery’s curator of photographs, Leslie Ureña, hopes the exhibit gets visitors to see and experience D.C. a bit differently, and with a bit more curiosity.  

Worth Mentioning: 

Wolf Trap’s Fall Performances 

Fall is the ideal time to visit Wolf Trap — located in the nearby woods of Vienna, VA — and an official performing arts partner with the National Park Service. Celebrating their 50th anniversary, Wolf Trap will host the Indigo Girls and Ani DiFranco, and the Avett Brothers (who will be the last show of the Summer 2021 season, which will conclude the 50th anniversary season). Beginning in early October, shows will be at The Barns at World Trap, an indoor venue that hosts shows through Spring 2022.

The Barnes Foundation Hosts the First Major U.S. Exhibit of Suzanne Valadon’s Paintings 

Take a weekend trip to Philadelphia’s Barnes Foundation – one of the quirkiest and most impressive art collections in the world — for “Suzanne Valadon: Model, Painter, Rebel.” The exhibit opens September 26 and celebrates the French painter and her contributions to the 20th-century art world. 

The Smithsonian Craft Show is Back Again for a Fall Run 

The Smithsonian Craft Show will once again be held virtually from October 23-31. The show will feature an exhibit and sale of the finest American contemporary craft and design. Expect to see works in glass, jewelry, metal and more.  

D.C.’s Art All Night, Neighborhood Celebrations of All Art Forms 

Taking it to the streets. September 24 and 25 from 7 p.m. until midnight, check out art activations in all eight wards of the District and 16 different neighborhoods. Over 100 artists’ works will be displayed and events like painting demos, a silent disco, jazz night and more will be yours to enjoy.  

“A Strange Loop” at the Woolly Mammoth 

The 2020 Pulitzer Prize-winning show about a Queer Black writer composing his own original musical comes to the Woolly Mammoth from November 22 through January 2, 2022.  

Washington Choral Arts Society Celebrates the Holidays 

The Washington Choral Arts Society is celebrating the holiday season with Christmas music December 20 and 24 at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall and are offering add-on experiences of “A Family Christmas” December 18 or 24. 

Smithsonian American Art Museum Celebrates Venetian History of Glassmaking 

Beginning October 8 through May 8, 2022, the Smithsonian American Art Museum will present “Sargent Whistler and Venetian Glass: American Artists and the Magic of Murano.” The Venetian island of Murano has been a leading place for glass-making since the Middle Ages. Today’s glass industry stems from a glass-making burst, or shall we say glass-making craze from 1860 to 1915. 







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