LAST YEAR, ABOUT THIS TIME, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History (NMAAHC) announced it had acquired a rare bust of Martin Luther King Jr., by Charles Alston. The bronze sculpture, one of five, was gifted to the museum by Chicago-based collectors Eric and Cheryl McKissack. (One of the editions is on display in President Obama’s Oval Office.) The Alston bust is one of many objects and photographs in the NMAAHC collection documenting the work and sacrifice of King.

This year marks the first King Day holiday since the NMAAHC opened in September. Admission to the museum is free on Monday, Jan. 16, when the federal holiday is officially observed. Entry is free everyday at all Smithsonian museums, however, given the overwhelming interest in visiting the new African American museum, its special entrance pass policy remains in place.

The King observance presents an ideal opportunity to spend time with family and friends and pay tribute to the civil rights hero by learning more about his legacy and connecting with your community. Across the country, museums and cultural institutions are planning a variety of programming, from exhibitions and film screenings to musical performances.

A number of museums that ordinarily charge admission are offering free entry on Jan. 16, including ICA Boston, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and Studio Museum in Harlem. The Studio Museum is usually not open on Mondays, but for the fist time in several years the Harlem institution is welcoming visitors on the King Holiday to view its current art exhibitions including “Circa 1970.” Other museums, such as the Perez Art Museum Miami are offering reduced admission or free entry to certain groups.

The Studio Museum is usually not open on Mondays, but for the fist time in several years the Harlem institution is welcoming visitors on the King Holiday to view its current art exhibitions including “Circa 1970.”

On Jan. 16, the National Park Service, which just celebrated its 100th birthday, is offering free entry to its parks and sites nationwide that ordinarily charge a fee.

Museums, universities, and culture centers from Los Angeles to Atlanta, Memphis, and New York have planned special activities around the King holiday. Here is a selection:

    YALE UNIVERSITY, NEW HAVEN, CONN, Jan. 11-25
    The theme of the annual King celebration underway at Yale University is “The Work Continues: Making Black Dreams Matter.” The schedule for the campus-wide celebration includes a conference, march, related museum and library exhibitions and displays, and concludes with a keynote address on Jan. 25 by Diane Nash, a pioneering civil rights figure and co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

    MOREHOUSE COLLEGE, ATLANTA, Jan. 13-31
    The highly regarded HBCU is hosting a three-week celebration of Martin Luther King Jr., which includes the opening of “Martin Luther King Jr. and Morehouse College: The Making of the Man,” a new exhibit at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta.

    APOLLO THEATER, HARLEM, NYC, Jan. 15
    Moderated by Brian Lehrer and Jami Floyd, “Uptown Hall: Where Do We Go From Here? MLK and the Future of Inclusion” is a panel discussion presented with WNYC, the local NPR affiliate, about the future of social justice movements. There are several other King-related events of note in New York City, including a screening of “The Negro and the American Promise” at the Museum of the Moving Image, a free Brooklyn Academy of Music Tribute, and “The Jam: MLK,” an evening of music, dance, and spoken-word poetry inspired by King at the Studio at Webster Hall with Daniel J. Watts of “Hamilton.”

    HARVEY B. GANTT CENTER, CHARLOTTE, N.C., Jan. 15 & 16
    The Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture is screening the film “Boycott” on Jan. 15 and is opening its doors on Jan. 16 for a full slate of free King Day-related activities. At the end of the month, two solo exhibitions are opening at the center featuring artists Jordan Casteel and Alison Saar.

    REBUILD FOUNDATION, CHICAGO, Jan. 16
    In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, artist Theaster Gates’s Rebuild Foundation is hosting a series of readings and film screenings at Stony Island Arts Bank.

    NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM, MEMPHIS, Jan. 16
    The National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, the site where Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated, is hosting a special day of activities. Inspired by the theme “Come Too Far to Turn Back Now,” the King Day celebration is focused on community service and education programming. The museum’s exhibitions will also be on view and admission for the day is reduced.

    PHILADELPHIA ORCHESTRA, Jan. 16
    With a free tribute concert (tickets required) the Philadelphia Orchestra is celebrating the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. at Girard College. The are a number of other King events around Philadelphia, including at the Woodmere Art Museum, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and African American Museum in Philadelphia.

    CALIFORNIA AFRICAN AMERICAN MUSEUM, LOS ANGELES, Jan. 16
    CAAM LA, where admission is always free, is hosting a day of activities marathon reading of King speeches, alongside it regular exhibition programming, including “Hank Willis Thomas: Black Righteous Space,” multimedia presentation.

    MUSEUM OF THE AFRICAN DIASPORA, SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 16
    Spanning film, art and music the Museum of the African Diaspora has a full day of activities planned in observance of King Day, including its current exhibitions—“A Matter of Fact: Toyin Ojih Odutola,” “David Adjaye: Urban Africa,” and “Nyame Brown – Classroom in Nevérÿon,” part of its emerging artist program. Admission is free for the day.

    CLEVELAND ART MUSEUM, Jan. 16
    Through words and images, the Cleveland Art Museum is celebrating King Day with special activities. Admission is always free at the museum where a short film about artist Jean-Michel Basquiat is on view, in anticipation of a “Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks,” a major exhibition opening Jan. 22.

    TOONSEUM, PITTSBURGH, Through March 5
    The exhibition, “From MLK to March: Civils Rights in Comics and Cartoons,” features dozens of works spanning nearly 70 years, from a 1958 comic about Martin Luther King Jr., and the Montgomery Bus Boycott to the recent “March,” the graphic novel trilogy co-authored by former SNCC activist Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) that won a 2016 National Book Award.

MOST ART MUSEUMS are actually closed on Mondays, among those that are open, many others have special King activities planned, too, including the Akron Art Museum, Newark Museum, and Art Institute of Chicago.CT

 

IMAGES: Top, JACK LEWIS HILLER, Martin Luther King Jr., 1960 (gelatin silver print). | National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Gift of Jack Lewis Hiller; Right, Placard from memorial march reading “HONOR KING: END RACISM!,” 1968 (lithographic ink on paper), Published by Allied Printing Trades Council Jr. | Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, 2011.57.6