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The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery announces the third season of its PORTRAITS podcast, which explores the real stories of extraordinary people and portraiture. Hosted by National Portrait Gallery Director Kim Sajet, PORTRAITS takes listeners beneath the surface of artworks in the museum’s collection to reveal the stories behind them. Season three uses portraiture to examine how history reverberates through time to cast a light, or shadow, on the present. The season will also pull back the curtain on the museum’s presidential portrait commission process. All new episodes for season three will premiere biweekly, on Tuesdays, beginning March 23 and will continue into June. A trailer is available for download now.
“I think the PORTRAITS podcast has resonated so much with listeners because it presents icons of history as the flawed, complex and unexpectedly relatable human beings that they were,” Sajet said. “And the deeper we dive into these stories, the more likely we are to find parallels with the events of our own time, especially today as our nation continues to confront a deadly pandemic and political division and as we grapple with how to create a more inclusive and equitable community writ large.”
Sajet will sit down, virtually, with a number of thought leaders, including Rick Atkinson, author of military history and a Portrait Gallery commissioner; Philip Kennicott, Washington Post critic and columnist; Honorée Jeffers, poet; and Carolyn Carr, former Portrait Gallery chief curator. Sajet, Kennicott and Carr will discuss how the museum’s presidential portrait commissions come about and will reveal some of the drama embedded in the portraits of former presidents. Later in the season, Atkinson and Sajet will use the portraits and checkered biographies of Thomas Paine and Henry Laurens to discuss the dissonance between the nation’s foundational “truths” and historical realities. Citing Archibald MacLeish, Atkinson says that democracy is “never a thing done…always something a nation must be doing” as he considers with Sajet those same truths in light of the mob attack on the Capitol Jan. 6.
Listeners can download the first two seasons of PORTRAITS and all new episodes, as season three unfolds, at npg.si.edu/podcasts or through Apple Podcasts, Google Play, PRX, Radio Public, Spotify and Stitcher. Past seasons of PORTRAITS featured guests such as Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III; hip-hop artist and actor LL Cool J; artist Hope Gangloff; Julie Packard, executive director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium; the late historian and news commentator Cokie Roberts; and Portrait Gallery curators Taína Caragol, Leslie Ureña and Ann Shumard