The opportunity to engage with other cultures is one of the best parts of living in the DMV. There are hundreds of classes, workshops, performances, arts destinations, camps and celebrations for kids and teens. Where to start? Here are some suggestions.
The Play’s the Thing
Performances offer a great way to be immersed in a culture. A play’s sets, clothing and worldview bring audiences to another way of experiencing life. Musical works expose your child to different scales and rhythms. Whichever type of performance you choose, your kid or teen will have a chance to step outside of the familiar. If their interest is piqued, you can follow up with performing arts classes at local children’s theaters or rec centers or seek out a festival or museum to take in more.
Much More at Museums
Many museums are devoted to one culture, with many more celebrating different cultures in various exhibits. In addition to standing collections, museums often have special exhibitions focused on a single topic. They’ll often have weekend programs exploring one aspect of a culture, with hands-on activities for kids and teens.
Museums allow your child to wander through the collections at their own pace, taking a closer look at things that interest them. When available, it’s worth adding the audio tour to provide the background that puts the work in a larger context or points out significant aspects of the work. Many museums have gift shops with catalogs of the collection as well as books, posters and artwork on related topics.
Smithsonian museums also offer excellent heritage month celebrations throughout the year in-person and online with arts events and resources.
Class It Up
Many venues offer classes and workshops for kids and teens. Most are hands-on, where the students create something related to the studied topic. You’ll find these classes at community centers, museums, art centers, recreation departments and cultural centers. Cooking classes in a technique or cuisine are also held at cooking stores or institutions. These classes are a great way for your students to meet others who share their interests while learning more.
There are often classes for specific age groups. A class in another culture can fit the bill, especially when your teen is looking for a way to try something new and meet other teens. Teen classes are often in the evening or on weekends. Classes for little kids tend to be after school or on weekends. Either way, they can be one-off or part of a series; you can pick what works for your family.
Some kids and teens will be moved by the fine arts associated with a culture. Many local art centers as well as museums offer drawing, painting, ceramic and sculpture ongoing classes or one-time workshops celebrating a culture. There may be an opportunity to join a show of student work. If your child is not into that, there are opportunities to attend without displaying work. Some of these classes will be specifically about a holiday or culture. Others may be more general, with special topics throughout the seasons. You can select a short, focused class or series if you prefer.
Music programs at local music studios and arts venues often offer focused experiences with pieces representative of a culture. Some of these classes engage kids who play the music. Many others have kids in the audience. Your child might also be interested in learning about youth orchestras celebrating different cultures.
Dance classes at cultural centers offer instruction in traditional dance, often along with the opportunity to perform, whether it’s a lively Irish dance or joyous African step. These programs may include traditional dress and instruction in the place the dances hold within the culture. Dance classes at many other dance studios and rec centers offer instruction in general, focusing on cultural dances throughout the year.
Camps offer opportunities to explore other cultures during school breaks or the summer through sports and the culinary and fine arts. Some camps have theme weeks focusing on one aspect or culture, while others focus on an end-of-summer performance or showcase.
Many opportunities are available for culinary arts. Often, these camps have a cook-around-the-world theme, with dishes from many cultures. Some camps focus on one cuisine or culture, exploring techniques and several dishes during the session.
Recreation departments, private schools, cultural centers and museums hold these camps. Often, you can enroll your child for a two-week session, making participating in several different types of multicultural experiences across the summer possible.
With many places and activities to explore, your kid or teen will surely find something just right!
CELEBRATING THE ARTS THROUGH FESTIVALS IN THE DMV
By Karen Kullgren
Cultural festivals allow your children and teens to have a real-time experience of a culture, along with those who share that culture. Hundreds — whether showcasing a holiday, a particular country, multiple cultures,or a diverse neighborhood — are held throughout the year all across the DMV, enough that you and your family can see performing and visual arts and listen to music at several usually free festivals a month! (Not to mention sample the cuisine of many cultures!) Below is just a sampling. (Dates and schedules vary each year, so visit websites close to the respective festival seasons.)
- Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival welcomes spring in April.
- The D.C. Francophonie Cultural Festival is a month-long series of cultural events and outreach programs with more than 40 embassies and partners presenting an array of arts and culinary experiences all rooted in Francophone culture.
- During Passport DC in April, dozens of the city’s embassies open their doors and their cultures to everyone around the DMV, including with kid-friendly events.
- Sephardic Heritage International DC’s Annual Festival of Neighbors celebrates Jewish-Moroccan culture.
- The annual DanceAfrica DC Festival invites you to celebrate the spirit of the African Diaspora with master classes and an outdoor festival including live performances, an African market and oral histories. The week-long event takes place indoors and outdoors at several locations across the district.
- Cinco de Mayo celebrations include a parade float and music and dance performances in a free event for Mexican culture put on by the Mayor’s Office on Latino Affairs and others.
- The Washington Jewish Film and Music Festivals are presented on stages and screens throughout DC, Virginia, and Maryland in May.
- Perhaps the mother of all multicultural festivals in our area is the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival held every summer with the excitement of different U.S. and international cultures featured each year.
- The Scottish Games include Celtic music and Scottish country dance where you can learn and join in.
- The International Colombian Festival aims to elevate Colombian culture, art, gastronomy, music and folklore.
- The annual Pan African Festival in SW D.C. celebrates Nguzo Saba, the seven principles of African heritage, with poets, performers and more.
- The Middle Eastern Festival in McLean and annual Middle Eastern Festival in D.C. are just two of many around the area held by Greek churches.
- The DC Jazz Festival at each summer’s end highlights modern international talents from around the globe as well as deep U.S. jazz traditions.
- The Adams Morgan Day festival has for 45 years shined a spotlight on this vibrant and diverse neighborhood in D.C.
- Kids Euro Fest This performing arts celebration is made possible by the 27 European Union member countries and the EU Delegation to the United States, in cooperation with Washington Performing Arts and DC Public Libraries.
- Fiesta DC coincides with Hispanic Heritage Month each fall and has been running more than 50 years and includes a children’s festival and Parade of Nations.
- The Turkish Festival is in October at The Wharf.
- German culture is showcased at the many Oktoberfests around the DMV, including City of Gaithersburg’s at the Kentlands each year.
- The Chuseok Family Festival celebrates Korean Thanksgiving.
- The new Capital City Africa Week Festival features a week’s worth of free events. While it is meant to amplify the shared values and diasporic ties between the District and African nations through sports, it also includes music, dance performances, workshops, handmade crafts and authentic cuisine.
- Family-friendly Día de los Muertos celebrations happen at Smithsonian’s American Art Museum, National Museum of the American Indian and National Portrait Gallery.
- The Heritage India Festival is a huge South Asian cultural, arts and commerce festival under one roof.
- November Native American Heritage Month events are celebrated at the National Museum of the American Indian in D.C.
- Nowruz Festival celebrates the Persian New Year in March.
- Time for the Christmas markets! Nearly every city and town across our metro area has multiple churches with these markets, which in addition to holiday shopping and treats include dance performances and more. The Embassy of the Czech Republic Christmas Market in November includes Czech carols and pop music.
- Also look for Kwaanza celebrations at places like Anacostia Arts Center, Smithsonian’s Anacostia Museum, and the Lake Arbor Foundation in Mitchellville, Md.
- Lunar New Year celebrations abound all over our area (Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Thai) every January/February including the Chinese New Year Parade in Chinatown, Vietnamese New Year at Eden Center in Falls Church, the Songkran Thai New Year Festival at Wat Thai Temple in Silver Spring and many, many more.