Kennedy Center hosts REACH to FOREST festival

“The Forestation” by Celia Leon and “I have Been Dreaming to be a Tree” by Byeongdoo Moon (Elman Studio)
Colin Valecourtes carving for his installation (Credit Bruce Guthrie)
“Indigenous Benches of Brazil” featured at the Kennedy Center (Elman Studio)
A celebration of Jane Goodall at the Kennedy Center (Elman Studio)
“Illuminated Forest” by Edwin Fontanez (Elman Studio)
“I have Been Dreaming to be a Tree” by Byeongdoo Moon (Elman Studio)
WTOP's Jason Fraley previews REACH to FOREST at Kennedy Center (Part 1)

What do the arts and nature have in common? They are both blossoming with wonders of creation.

The two-week festival “REACH to FOREST” captivates the Kennedy Center through March 3.

“We have a 10-year plan to address arts in environment,” Curator Gilda Almeida told WTOP. Last year’s event addressed rivers and oceans; this year focuses on forests; and the next few years will explore space and icebergs.

“We unfortunately are going through many different challenges of deforestation and lack of conservation,” Almeida said. “We have urban forests, tropical forests, rainforests, all kinds of forests, but we have to think of our day-to-day forests, the importance of trees to naturally fight climate change. We are talking about trees, of course, but we are also talking about wildlife and the people of the forests, the Indigenous people.”

One very special guest will lead the festival’s culinary events.

“We are bringing in a chef from the Amazon to key up and handle culinary events here at the Kennedy Center, which include a couple of specially prepared dinners and includes a special menu in the restaurant and our cafe,” curator Alicia Adams said. “We are doing one program called Culinary Diplomacy, where students participating in a project with the Department of Labor learn how to cook … with the chef from the Amazon.”

The festival includes tons of family-friendly events for parents to bring their kids to enjoy.

There’s giant puppets from Quebec — “18-feet-tall trees trying to heal the Earth,” Almeida said.

There’s also a Forest Youth Day Partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, as well as activities, film screenings, crafts, giveaways and Smokey the Bear. Nine-year old conservationist Aneeshwar Kunchala will tell kids about his expedition to the Arctic and his book that will be launched in the Environmental Book Fair.

Don’t miss the Immersive Cinema Dome that projects dazzling canopies and constellations.

“We have two different programs: a program for kids, ‘The Life of Trees.’ And another program for adults that is very inspiring and special, the ‘Northern Lights’ in Canada … You come, you have the bean bags and you have these projections almost like a little planetarium,” Almeida said.

You can also check out various art installments spanning the entire REACH campus, including one by Cuban visual artist Celia Ledon, who works with natural elements and recycled materials; and Korean artist Byeongdoo Moon, with a steel sculpture called “Reindeer Wanting to Be A Tree.”

“I would recommend the Indigenous Benches of Brazil (by Coleção BEĨ),” Almeida said. “The exhibit has over 70 animal-inspired benches crafted by people from 41 ethnic groups across the Brazilian Amazon Forest.”

Meanwhile, Maryland artist “Carving” Colin Vale will be doing live demonstrations with a chain saw. Vale was commissioned by the National Park Service to carve a bench from a 300-year-old tree that fell during a recent storm in Montgomery County. Almeida says sitting on the bench is “quite the experience.”

See the full list of activities here. 

Listen to our full conversation here.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews REACH to FOREST at Kennedy Center (Part 2)

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Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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