In my previous posts I have strongly advocated the notion of getting the most out of the Washington experience by advocating for oneself. This week I have reaped the benefits of this advice when I requested to take part in the CHIP program this week that trains DC interns to give tours of the capital. The Chip program lasted from 9:00 am to 3:30 pm on Tuesday and Thursday. What that meant was less time in the office and more time developing my versatility as an intern, all while acquiring more knowledge of the nation’s capital.
When we toured the Rotunda, the focal point of the capital I was very intrigued and fascinated by not only the artwork but by some of the stories behind the art. One of those paintings was the “Apotheosis of Washington” located in the eye of the Rotunda. The painting was created by the Italian artist Constatino Brumidi; a master of creating the illusion of three dimensional forms and figures on flat walls. While making this painting over a hundred feet from the ground Brumidi at one time almost fell to his death when the scaffolding began to break. Brumidi was hanging for fifteen minutes before someone heard his screams from above. After completing the painting in 1865, Brumidi was rewarded with a staggering $40,000 a copious sum at the time. Seeing George Washington as a cultural icon, he painted him rising to the heavens of glory, flanked by female figures representing Liberty and Victory. Surrounding Washington are six group of figures symbolic of the development of America. The symbols are War, Science, Marine, Commerce, Mechanics and Agriculture and in every one of those figures at least one Greek god is present.
As our tour guide led us from the Rotunda to other locations I found that when I tried to remember the facts I did not feel fatigued. It was as if someone were telling me a story and whenever there is a story you just want to hang on every single word. The capital itself from its original construction to its extension it a building of many stories. When I give tours one of these days I want to be able to not just reiterate what I have been taught but to draw the constituents in. There is just so much to American history that I feel that people need to learn and what better way to learn it than to be present in a location that bleeds it.