Focused, Intense, Elegant: Richard Avedon Photographs Anchor Exhibit Celebrating  The Kennedy White House Years

Focused, Intense, Elegant: Richard Avedon photographs anchor exhibit celebrating the Kennedy White House Years

Organized by the Springfield Museums, the exhibition Jack & Jackie: The Kennedys in the White House (December 8, 2017–March 25, 2018) celebrates America’s 35th President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy by highlighting their White House years, 1961-1963. The exhibition also honors the centennial of John F. Kennedy’s birth, May 29, 1917; he was the first president born in the 20th century.

In collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution and private collectors, the Springfield Museums will explore the legacy of the Kennedys as promoters of art, culture, and elegance. Twenty-seven iconic photographs of the first family by Richard Avedon, on loan from the National Museum of American History, will anchor the exhibition, providing a glimpse into the Kennedys’ personal life while also documenting their public image. Avedon was the only photographer who was allowed to take official photographs of Kennedy, Jackie, and their children, Caroline and John, between the time that he was elected in 1960 and Inauguration Day. He took this series of photos for Harper’s Bazaar on the same day the U.S. ended ties with Cuba. Newsweek reported later Avedon’s comment: “When I took Caroline’s picture with her father, he was dictating memos to his secretary. … When I’d ask him to look around, he’d stop dictating. But the moment I finished, he’d start in where he left off. I’ve never seen such a display of mental control in my life.”

The exhibit also features costumes and props from the acclaimed REELZ miniseries “The Kennedys.” The 2011 series starred Greg Kinnear as Jack Kennedy, Katie Holmes as Jackie Kennedy. The dresses and props from this series will be immediately recognizable to those who have seen photographs of the first family.

One gallery is devoted to a recreation of the Oval Office—with photo opportunities available sitting at the Resolute Desk.

During the “White House years,” President Kennedy advocated for human rights, strengthened connections with allies, and oversaw the growth of the U.S. economy. He also advocated for the arts in a way that surpassed any president before him. He invited Robert Frost to read a poem at his inauguration, making Frost the first poet to be included in this way. Kennedy created the groundwork that would one day become the National Endowment for the Arts. He said: “As a great democratic society, we have a special responsibility to the arts, for art is the great democrat calling forth creative genius from every sector of society, disregarding race or religion or wealth or color. Thus, in our fulfillment of these responsibilities toward the arts lies our unique achievement as a free society.”

First Lady Jackie Kennedy, also an avid supporter of the arts, took a historical role in the restoration of the White House. Her contribution to its collection of art and historical furnishings, her leadership in historic preservation, and her work as a traveling ambassador solidified her place in the hearts of Americans as an advocate for creativity and beauty alongside her husband.

A companion exhibit in the Wood Museum of Springfield History—Collecting Camelot: The Kennedy Era and its Collectibiles—features campaign memorabilia from the collection of Frank Andruss Sr. and collectibles that highlight the long-lasting cultural impact of the Kennedys on America.

In connection with the Jack & Jackie exhibit, the museums will celebrate their holiday gala “A Night in Camelot” December 7 and the 2nd annual Smithsonian Week in Springfield, December 7-14. Please see schedule below:

Holiday Gala: A Night in Camelot
December 7 @ 6:30 pm–10:00 pm
Cost: $225

Smithsonian Week and the opening of the Jack & Jackie exhibit will be marked with the Springfield Museums yearly holiday gala. In honor of the 100th anniversary of Kennedy’s birth, this year’s gala is themed “A Night in Camelot.” Honorary co-chairs Representative Richard E. Neal and Roger Crandall, CEO, MassMutual, will join honored guests from the Smithsonian Institution to celebrate.

Sponsors include Health New England and United Personnel.

Smithsonian Week in Springfield, December 7-14

LECTURE: Thursday, December 7 at 12:15 p.m.
The Kennedys: Portrait of a Family lecture by Shannon Perich, Curator, National Museum of American History. This talk is part of the Museums á la Carte series.

EDUCATOR OPEN HOUSE: Monday, December 11, 4-6:30 p.m.
Educator Open House with Briana Zavadil White, Student and Teacher Program Manager at the National Portrait Gallery. Looking to the permanent collection and Avedon photographs in the Museums’ galleries, White will share with educators ideas on how to use portraiture as an interdisciplinary tool for learning.

LECTURE: Thursday, December 14 at 12:15 p.m.
The Smithsonian’s Jazz Orchestra lecture by Kennith R. Kimery, Supervisory Producer, American Music History Initiatives at the National Museum of American History. This talk is part of the Museums á la Carte series.

CULTURE & COCKTAILS, 5-8:00 p.m.
Culture & Cocktails: A Holiday in Camelot features two concerts by a septet of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra. The performances will explore the musical journey of saxophonist Paul Winter during his 1962 U. S. State Department tour of South America, which culminated with the first jazz concert for young people at the White House, hosted by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.

Smithsonian Week in Springfield is made possible by the generous support of MassMutual Foundation.

*Additional lectures and programs, to be determined, will take place in January, February and March of 2018

On loan from the Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of History, through the Smithsonian Affiliate Program, supported by the MassMutual Foundation, this exhibit is sponsored by American International College. Media sponsor: Valley Advocate/Preview Massachusetts.