The Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum is hosting its summer Guest Artist Program with stamp artist John Para. Six free programs, June–August, will offer visitors of all ages opportunities to learn about the process of designing and illustrating a U.S. postage stamp.
Stamp artists have the extremely challenging task of depicting the shared history, culture and beliefs of an entire nation on a 1-inch square piece of paper. They work to find the perfect balance between the countless perspectives and experiences of the American people with their individual artistic visions. This summer, visitors to the National Postal Museum can join the museum and Parra as they examine a collection of themes illustrated in his original stamp designs and illustrations.
“At the National Postal Museum, we like to say that ‘every stamp tells a story,’” said Jessie Aucoin, the museum’s education and visitor experience director. “Through an incredible range of programs, stamp artist John Para will demonstrate just how true that is!”
“I am honored to be presenting at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum as we celebrate stories, stamp art and the creative process, 1 inch squared,” Parra said.
Whether they are interested in Parra’s design process, his artistic inspirations or his interest in examining Hispanic heritage on postage stamps, there is undoubtedly a program that will interest a variety of art lovers. A list of the programs is below:
¡Delicioso!: Designing Latino Food Stamps
Wednesday, June 28; 7 p.m. ET
Parra and U.S. Postal Service Art Director Antonio Alcalá will be in conversation about the stamp-design process they used in 2017 when working on the ¡Delicioso! series together. This program, offered on Zoom, is for learners of all ages but requires registration. ASL interpretation and captioning available.
Spanish Is the Language of My Family Book Festival
Saturday, July 15; 11 a.m.–4 p.m. ET
Visitors can come for a family-friendly book festival following the release of Spanish Is the Language of My Family, written by Michael Genhart and illustrated by Parra. The day’s events will include fun games, interesting crafts and entertaining live music for the whole family. This event, hosted at the National Postal Museum, is free and does not require advanced registration.
Celebrating Frida Kahlo and Hispanic Heritage
Wednesday, July 26; 7 p.m. ET
Whether it is people, places or things such as food or music, the U.S. Postal Service has represented Hispanic and Latino culture on dozens of stamps. Parra will share many of the stamps he finds most interesting and will lead a drawing demonstration inspired by artist Frida Kahlo. This event, offered on Zoom, is for learners of all ages but requires registration. ASL interpretation and captioning will be available.
Commemorating Community Heroes Through Folk Art: An Art Workshop
Saturday, Aug. 5; 11 a.m.–4 p.m. ET
For any middle and high school student interested in the visual arts, Parra will be leading a hands-on art workshop centered on folk art and how people can use it to depict the world around them. Space is extremely limited and students must apply. Food will be provided. This program, hosted in the National Postal Museum’s Byrne classroom, is designed for middle and high school students.
Artist Inspiration and Creative Problem Solving
Wednesday, Aug. 16; 7 p.m. ET
Using his semi-autobiographical children’s book, Growing an Artist: The Story of a Landscaper and His Son, Parra will explore creative thinking and problem solving—two skills that are applicable to every job imaginable. Participants will be able to watch as Parra gives a live painting demonstration about his creative processes. This program, offered on Zoom, requires registration. ASL interpretation and captioning will be available.
Mule Mail and Biblioburros: Reaching Communities in Unexpected Ways
Wednesday, Aug. 30; 4 p.m. ET
Animals have always played an important role in helping bring goods to people. Even today, the U.S. Postal Service and book mobiles have relied on them to reach communities that live in places hard to reach. Parra will lead families through some of the many ways people still rely on animals and how they can celebrate their hometowns when they come to the museum. This program, offered on Zoom, is designed for families with children, ages 5–10 years, and requires registration. ASL interpretation and captioning will be available.
About the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum
The National Postal Museum is devoted to presenting the colorful and engaging history of the nation’s mail service and showcasing one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of stamps and philatelic material in the world. It is located at 2 Massachusetts Ave. N.E., Washington, D.C., across from Union Station. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). For more information, visit postalmuseum.si.edu. Follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and YouTube.