FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 13, 2012
Download the press release (PDF).
View a list of related programs (PDF).
View Creating the United States images available for editorial use (PDF).
View Decades of Dissent images available for editorial use (PDF).
Press Preview: Wednesday, October 10, 10:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.
Skirball Cultural Center presents
major exhibition of historical treasures
CREATING THE UNITED STATES
October 11, 2012–February 17, 2013
Related exhibitions focus on 60s-era political art and First Amendment freedoms
LOS ANGELES—In the crucial weeks leading up to the 2012 Presidential election, as political debate reaches a fever pitch, the Skirball Cultural Center opens a major new exhibition anchoring a season of “Democracy Matters at the Skirball.” Organized by the Library of Congress and seen by some two million visitors during its four-year run in the Library’s historic setting, Creating the United States will be on view at the Skirball from October 11, 2012 through February 17, 2013. The exhibition focuses on the founding documents of our republic—the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights—and reveals how imagination and vision played critical roles in the formation of our nation. On view are original documents, autograph letters, rare books and manuscripts, artifacts, and many more precious and seldom traveled objects from some of the nation’s leading cultural institutions.
“The Skirball Cultural Center is proud to present this adaptation of Creating the United States in its only appearance outside Washington, D.C.,” said Robert Kirschner, Skirball Museum Director. “Rarely has the history of American democracy been so vividly assembled for public exhibition in Southern California.”
Kirschner continued, “Here at the Skirball, we seek to live and practice American democratic ideals. We view this as an expression of our purpose as a Jewish institution. Our hope is that by illuminating the lasting legacy of the founding documents, especially in shaping the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, Creating the United States will inspire visitors to participate in the democratic process today.”
Creating the United States will be complemented by two exhibitions, also on view October 11, 2012–February, 17, 2013. Decades of Dissent: Democracy in Action, 1960–1980 displays some of the most compelling political art from the famously turbulent era of the 1960s and 1970s. Free to Be U.S.: A First Amendment Experience probes key liberties and encourages visitors to consider their contemporary relevance. In addition, the Skirball’s permanent exhibition, Visions and Values: Jewish Life from Antiquity to America, will feature a special “Lincoln Spotlight” during the run of the three temporary exhibitions. This spotlight will present rare original artifacts on special loan from the Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, IL.
In anticipation of the exhibitions’ opening, TIME magazine executive editor Nancy Gibbs will discuss her new book (co-authored with Michael Duffy), The President’s Club—which examines the private relationships among modern American presidents—on Thursday, October 4, at 8:00 p.m. This will be followed by an array of exhibition-related talks, performances, classes, and family programs.
Creating the United States
Creating the United States examines how our nation’s founders built a strong and resilient republic, even in the face of political turmoil in their own time. It demonstrates how the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights were forged out of insight, invention, and creativity, as well as collaboration, competition, and compromise. While fulfilling the principles laid down by the founders has been a struggle throughout the centuries, the documents they created are living instruments, essential to the evolution of America and its future.
In a gallery environment designed in collaboration with architects Frederick Fisher and Partners, Creating the United States is divided into four sections. Each of the first three sections traces the historical and intellectual development of one of the founding documents, as well as the challenges these writings engendered for a young nation learning to govern itself. Visitors will learn how America’s founders pressed forward to declare independence and carefully crafted the language that laid the foundation of the American republic; how in the midst of a revolutionary war, these new citizen-leaders painstakingly wrote a plan for a functional national government; and how, as one of its first orders of business, the Congress amended its new federal Constitution to include a bill of rights in an act of essential political compromise.
With the cooperation of the Library of Congress, the Skirball has secured loans of additional artifacts from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, the Mt. Vernon Estate, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, the Huntington Library, and several private collections. Among the more than 170 objects on view are rough drafts, original documents, and autograph correspondence by George Washington, John Adams, John Hancock, and Thomas Jefferson; first editions of Common Sense and The American Crisis by Thomas Paine (1776); engravings by Paul Revere; a William J. Stone copy of the Declaration of Independence (1847); a Members Edition of the United States Constitution (1787); a facsimile of Jefferson’s desk on which he drafted the Declaration of Independence; and James Madison’s notes for the “Great Compromise,” which created a bicameral legislature balancing states’ and individuals’ rights. Each of these three sections also contains an interactive kiosk that enables visitors to inspect earlier drafts of the documents and source materials for key ideas in the texts.
The fourth section examines the legacy of the founding documents through insightful displays on the separation of church and state, women’s suffrage, slavery, school segregation, Native American rights, Japanese internment, and the struggles of the United Farm Workers. Included in this section are a Thomas Jefferson peace medal (1801–1809); slave shackles and an anti-slavery primer (1847); an original copy of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Abraham Lincoln (1863); a copy of the Nineteenth Amendment and a photograph of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony; a copy of the Japanese Exclusion Order; and such vivid objects as a photograph by Dorothea Lange of Japanese merchants’ display of a banner reading “I Am An American,” a photograph of Cesar Chavez, and a short-handled hoe used by a migrant farm worker.
Decades of Dissent
Democracy in Action, 1960–1980
Decades of Dissent: Democracy in Action, 1960–1980 features more than twenty-five original protest posters that reveal the persuasive power of art to inspire democratic action. Visually striking and often confrontational, the works call attention to critical social movements that were shaped by the principles, rights, and individual liberties expressed by the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. The exhibition spotlights California activism around diverse causes—including peace, ecology, labor, the women’s movement, and civil rights—showcasing iconic images and slogans that served as vehicles for social change. Famous manifestos such as “Black Is Beautiful,” “Make Love, Not War,” and “War is not healthy for children and other living things” (in English and Vietnamese) are displayed in their original vivid designs and bold colors.
Decades of Dissent was organized by the Center for the Study of Political Graphics, the largest repository of post–World War II historical posters in the nation.
Free to be U.S.
A First Amendment Experience
Free to be U.S.: A First Amendment Experience examines the role that the First Amendment has played in expanding liberty and justice for everyone in the United States. It explores the freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition in historical context and features interactive exhibits to help visitors consider the relevance of these five freedoms today. The exhibition studies debates about the limits of freedom that began in the nation’s infancy and traces how they have been renewed and transformed in U.S. history.
Using interactive computer touchscreens, exhibition visitors can assume the role of a Supreme Court justice and analyze five landmark First Amendment cases; apply First Amendment guarantees to current and controversial debates, such as gay marriage, gun rights, and standards of decency in pop
music; and decide if there are limits to First Amendment rights in cases of national security, obscenity, and hate speech. The exhibition features profiles of individuals who have fought for freedom, including the Little Rock Nine, Dolores Huerta, Harvey Milk, Tam Tran, and Bella Abzug, and invites visitors to consider banned books, art, films, and fashion to determine “Is this censorship?” Visitors will also have the opportunity to craft a five-word “soap box” speech about freedom and deliver it in the gallery atop an antique soap box.
Free to Be U.S. is based on Freedom Express: A First Amendment Experience, developed by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and adapted for travel by the Skirball Cultural Center.
VISIONS AND VALUES
Jewish Life from Antiquity to America
Coinciding with the presentation of Creating the United States, Decades of Dissent, and Free to Be U.S., the Skirball’s permanent exhibition, Visions and Values: Jewish Life from Antiquity to America, will feature a special exhibit as part of “Democracy Matters at the Skirball.”
On view in the Liberty Gallery will be a “Lincoln Spotlight,” featuring objects on loan from the Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield, Illinois. Among the treasures is an extremely rare manuscript copy of Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address (“With malice toward none, with charity for all...”), written in Lincoln’s own hand just days before his tragic assassination. Just as Lincoln characterized American democracy as “the last, best hope of earth,” so, too, did American Jews revere him for defending their rights in an age when anti-Semitism was commonplace.
Related Public and School Programs
During the run of the exhibition, the Skirball will present numerous public programs that have been developed around the theme “Democracy Matters at the Skirball.” Among them are talks and panel discussions by prominent writers, community leaders, and scholars; an in-gallery “Soapbox Series” in which guest speakers will opine on such controversial issues as the right to bear arms and affirmative action; an artist residency and live concert by Marcus Shelby and his jazz ensemble; a comedy/spoken-word event, “The New America,” hosted by Un-Cabaret’s Beth Lapides; and a dramatic staged reading of Ameryka by Nancy Keystone and her Critical Mass Performance Group.
As part of its extensive outreach to local schools, the Skirball will offer an interactive gallery program for students in Grades 5–12. The school tour will encourage students to consider the process of debate and compromise that led to the creation of the United States, as well as the impact of the founding documents on their own lives as young Americans. In addition, students at Granada Hills High School will take part in a six-week, in-school visual arts residency relating to the themes of Creating the United States. The residency will culminate in a “Student Takeover Day” at the Skirball on Thursday, November 1, and Saturday, November 3, before public hours during which participants will lead fellow high school students on an exploration of civic life with a historical perspective.
Audrey's Museum Store at the Skirball will offer a curated selection of more than 100 related book titles for children, young adults, and adults, plus historical document replicas and educational re-enactment toys, sculpture, exhibition posters, magnets, mugs, and novelties.
CREATING THE UNITED STATES IS ORGANIZED BY THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS.
THE EXHIBITION WAS MADE POSSIBLE THROUGH THE GENEROUS SUPPORT OF ROGER AND SUSAN HERTOG AND THE XEROX FOUNDATION.
CREATING THE UNITED STATES AND ITS RELATED PROGRAMS AT THE SKIRBALL CULTURAL CENTER ARE MADE POSSIBLE THROUGH THE GENEROUS SUPPORT OF THE FOLLOWING DONORS:
The Angell Foundation
The David Berg Foundation
Theodore H. and Frances K. Geballe Philanthropic Fund
Glaser, Weil, Fink, Jacobs, Howard, Avchen & Shapiro LLP
The Kallick Family in Memory of Sidney S. Kallick
Eugene and Ruth Roberts
Skirball Cultural Center Volunteer Service Council
Specialty Family Foundation
Scott and Lannette Turicchi
MEDIA SUPPORT PROVIDED BY:
Los Angeles magazine
About the Skirball
The Skirball Cultural Center is dedicated to exploring the connections between 4,000 years of Jewish heritage and the vitality of American democratic ideals. It welcomes and seeks to inspire people of every ethnic and cultural identity. Guided by our respective memories and experiences, together we aspire to build a society in which all of us can feel at home. The Skirball Cultural Center achieves its mission through educational programs that explore literary, visual, and performing arts from around the world; through the display and interpretation of its permanent collections and changing exhibitions; through an interactive family destination inspired by the Noah’s Ark story; and through outreach to the community.
Visiting the Skirball
The Skirball Cultural Center is located at 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90049. Free on-site parking is available; street parking is strictly prohibited. The Skirball is also accessible by Metro Rapid Bus 761. Museum hours: Tuesday–Friday 12:00–5:00 p.m.; Saturday–Sunday 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.; closed Mondays and holidays. Museum admission: $10 General; $7 Seniors, Full-Time Students, and Children over 12; $5 Children 2–12. Exhibitions are always free to Skirball Members and Children under 2. Exhibitions are free to all visitors on Thursdays. For general information, the public may call (310) 440-4500 or visit www.skirball.org. The Skirball is also home to Zeidler’s Café, which serves innovative California cuisine in an elegant setting, and Audrey’s Museum Store, which sells books, contemporary art, music, jewelry, and more.
Paul Stahr. “1776—Retouching an Old Masterpiece—1915." Cover illustration from Life,July 1915. General Collections, Library of Congress.
Edward Savage. Benjamin Franklin L.L.D., F.R.S. Mezzotint, September 17, 1793. From the Collection of Dr. Gary Mila
War Is Not Healthy for Children and Other Living Things, Lorraine Schneider, Another Mother for Peace, Offset, 1967, Beverly Hills, California