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5 Star Starred
S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Drive, SW Washington, DC 20024
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Step into any pine–paneled den in mid-50s America and you were likely to see a piece of paint-by-number artwork. After more than a half a century, those New England lighthouses and pictures of Chinese maidens and matadors are seen as more than just retro décor. Join curator William L. Bird, Jr. for an entertaining stroll though a virtual gallery of Craft Master classics to explore how a kitschy hobby craze colorfully planted itself at the intersection of elite and popular cultures, savvy marketing, and postwar middle-class cultural aspirations. 

Bird acknowledges that the hugely popular paint-by-number creations were never really art, but “by doing what art was not supposed to be, one could learn what it was.”

Begin the evening by sipping a glass of wine and trying your hand at a paint-by-number masterpiece (beret and smock not included).

Bird is a curator at the American History Museum. He assembled that museum’s exhibition Paint by Number: Accounting for Taste in 1950s America, and wrote the companion book Paint by Number: The How-to Craze that Swept the Nation (Princeton Architectural Press). 

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