Arts Agenda: Autumn cultural events focus on Americana

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Exhibitions, festivals and special events focusing on aspects of Americana top the upcoming cultural agenda. Here is a sampling:

Domestic

• Albany, N.Y. -- Railroad and history buffs will enjoy the new exhibition at the Albany Institute of History and Art, "All Aboard! Models, Memorabilia and Memories of Railroads from the Albany Institute's Collection," running through Nov. 2.

It explores the lore of railroading and its historical significance through photographs, posters and paintings.

• Baltimore -- The National Historic Seaport will commemorate the anniversary of the bombardment of Fort McHenry and the writing of the U.S. national anthem at its Star-Spangled Banner Weekend, Sept. 12 to 14.

The event features battle reenactments, drills, demonstrations, cannon firings and, of course, fireworks.

• Boston -- The British are coming. Well, at least one British subject -- one of England's most prominent artists during the years before and after the American Revolution -- is on his way.

"Thomas Gainsborough, 1727-1788" at the Museum of Fine Arts through Sept. 14 includes nearly 100 works by the artist, the most detailed display of his work ever shown in the U.S.

• Chicago -- Opening night for the Chicago Jazz Festival, which runs from Aug. 28 to 31, is set for Chicago's Symphony Center. The action then moves outdoors for free performances in Grant Park.

Chicago's role in opening of the West is explored from a range of perspectives in the exhibition, "Window on the West: Chicago and the Art of the New Frontier, 1890-1940." Scheduled through Oct. 13 at the Art Institute of Chicago, it features works by Georgia O'Keeffe and Frederic Remington.

• Jonesboro, Tenn. -- Storytellers from throughout the country will gather here for the National Storytelling Festival, Oct. 3 to 5.

• Minneapolis -- Although boxing might seem a strange subject for an art museum to explore, the Walker Art Center is featuring "The Squared Circle: Boxing in Contemporary Art," which runs through Oct. 12.

Through works by 30 artists, including sound samples from gyms, the beauty and the violence of the sport are explored.

• Nashville -- Eddy Arnold, one of America's country music icons, is the man at the Country Music Hall of Fame through Dec. 31.

The exhibition, "I'll Hold You in My Heart: The Eddy Arnold Collection," includes photos, recordings, sheet music and a wealth of memorabilia.

• New London, Conn. -- "Boats Books & Brushes" is a unique family festival linking books, art and the sea -- with lots of good food, as well.

The weekend event on New London's waterfront includes readings by noted authors, musical performances, cooking demonstrations and, for youngsters, a storybook character parade and a fishing tournament.

• New York -- The Guggenheim Museum draws on its permanent collection for its latest crowd-pleaser, "From Picasso to Pollock: Classics of Modern Art," on exhibit through Sept. 28.

Only steps away, the National Academy of Design also is drawing from its own collection, the result of which is a display of self-portraits from such illustrious female members of the academy as Mary Cassatt, Elaine de Kooning and Helen Frankenthaler. "Challenging Tradition: Women of the Academy, 1826-2003," runs through Jan. 4.

Animal lovers have a treat in store for them at the New York Historical Society, where "Petropolis: A Social History of Urban Animal Companions," running through Nov. 9, explores the relationship between city dwellers and their pets.

• San Francisco -- From Sept. 4 to 18, the San Francisco World Music Festival brings together an eclectic group of performers representing virtually every compositional style, from Western classical to Chinese traditional.

The festival will be held in such locations as the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Asian Art Museum and the San Francisco Dance Center.

Don't miss the only U.S. showing of the "Marc Chagall" exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art through Nov. 4. The show includes many works never before seen in this country.

International

• Berlin -- The city beckons night owls on Aug. 30, when more than 100 museums will remain open until 2 a.m. The 14th annual "Long Night of Museums" features live music, food and shuttle buses to take visitors from museum to museum.

• London -- Another reopening brings Trafalgar Square back to life as a visitor mecca following an 18-month construction project. The pedestrian-friendly square invites visitors to a "Summer in the Square" series of musical performances.

Somerset House has an unusual exhibit, "The Art of Chess," through Sept. 28, which features 19 unique chess sets, including ones designed by Carl Faberge and Marcel Duchamp.

Each set shows a move toward the final checkmate in a game that, according to legend, was played and won by Napoleon on St. Helena in 1820.

Military aficionados will enjoy a special event at the South Lawn of the Tower of London through Aug. 31.

Four times a day, two men, dressed in Tudor fighting costumes, will demonstrate and explain the technique of fighting with swords, daggers and other Elizabethan-era weapons.

• Montreal -- "Edouard Vuillard: Post Impressionist Master," running though Aug. 24 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, is a giant exhibition of 400 works by the artist.

Alvin H. Reiss is editor of the Travel Arts Partnership Newsletter (TAP), which is published by Museums Magazines, the Arts & Business Council and the Arts Knowledge Corp. For details, visit www.travelartspartnership.com. Arts Agenda runs periodically in Travel Weekly.

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