2019 August Brown Bag Series: Congress and the Arts

The U.S. Capitol Historical Society will host its annual lunchtime lecture series on Wednesdays in August on Capitol Hill. This year’s iteration of the series will focus on Congress and the arts and how Congress acts as a patron of the arts.



August 7: Michele Cohen, The Preservation Dilemma


Michele Cohen, PhD., Curator, Architect of the Capitol

Cohen will focus her presentation on the two sculptures that were removed from the Capitol’s East front cheek blocks and are currently in storage. She will discuss what options are available to policy makers in preserving pieces of public art.

Since 2016, Cohen has served as the curator for the Architect of the Capitol. Prior to her time with the Architect’s office, she published numerous books and articles on a variety of art related topics. She authored the first ever book on the history of art and architecture in New York City public schools titled Public Art for Public Schools. For 20 years she oversaw the sculpture inventory for the Design Commission of the City of New York. As the curator of the Architect of the Capitol she is able to use all of her knowledge and experience to protect and preserve the Capitol. The preservation and restoration of the Grant Memorial is just one example of successfully completed project under her tenure.

NOTE: This talk will not be recorded, so please join us live to hear the presentation.

Location: Ketchum Hall (200 Maryland Ave. NE, Washington DC 20002).



August 14: Libby Smigel, True Crime on the Ballet Stage?: Dancing Lizzie Borden in Fall River Legend


Libby Smigel, MFA, PhD, dance curator and archivist, Music Division Library of Congress

Fall River Legend is a truly American ballet. Choreographed by Agnes de Mille (daughter of Cecil B. DeMille who also choreographed Rodeo) Fall River Legend’s story is based upon the infamous Lizzie Borden murder case. Smigel will draw upon the Library of Congress’ collections from American Ballet Theatre, Oliver Smith (architect and co-founder of the American Ballet Theater), Peggy Clark (lighting designer), and Morton Gould (who composed the music for Fall River Legend.)

Libby Smigel  became the Library of Congress’s dance curator in August 2015. Previously, she was executive director at Dance Heritage Coalition (DHC), where she initiated programs and provided archival assistance for the dance field’s practitioners and performers. She provides outreach to artists to digitize obsolete format videos to national preservation and access standards. She advises organizations and artists on how to find funding or assistance to manage their legacy records, and co-authored with IP attorney Peter Jaszi a booklet on copyright and fair use to help navigate rights issues.

Location: Ketchum Hall (200 Maryland Ave. NE, Washington DC 20002).



August 21: Donna Binkiewicz, Cultural Policy in Historical Context


Donna M. Binkiewicz, Lecturer, History Department, California State University, Long Beach

Binkiewicz will discuss the role of Congress in establishing arts policy and the Cold War context of the NEA/NEH. In addition, she will discuss the origins of federal funding for the arts during the 1960s and how the Cold War Era influenced this process. Finally, she will discuss how federal funding expanded access to the arts in the states.

Donna Binkewicz is a lecturer at California State University, Long Beach. Binkiewicz focuses on recent United States political and cultural history and California history.  She has published several articles about US arts policy and a book, Federalizing the Muse: United States Arts Policy, 1965-1980 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004).

Location: Cannon House Office Building Room 121



August 28: Mike Evans, Congress and Shakespeare


Michael W. Evans, Democratic chief counsel and deputy staff director, U.S. Senate Finance Committee

In his talk, Evans will discuss how has Shakespeare’s thinking affected U.S. politics historically as well as how an understanding of Shakespeare could improve American politics in the future. In addition, he will explain why the Folger Shakespeare Library is located virtually across the street from the U.S. Capitol.

Evans has served as the Democratic chief counsel and deputy staff director since 2003. Evans has previously written about Shakespeare and Congress. He wrote an article titled: Shakespeare’s Guide to Tax Policy: ‘Know You of This Taxation?’ in 2009 for K&L Gates. Prior to serving as the Democratic chief counsel and deputy staff director, U.S. Senate Finance Committee, Evans served for eight years as Democratic chief counsel at the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. He was extensively involved in legislation regarding the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, Superfund, the Highway Bill, the Endangered Species Act, and other national environmental public works laws.

Location: Ketchum Hall (200 Maryland Ave. NE, Washington DC 20002).