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Posted at 10:05 AM ET, 07/30/2009

Up Next: August Arts

By Stephanie Merry

If the work hanging on the walls at local museums feels like it's been around a while, it may be a good time to take a walk outside. What August lacks in new exhibitions, it makes up for with art parties, festivals and street fairs.

If you've never hung out in the Bloomingdale neighborhood, a good time to check it out is Saturday during First on 1st. The street festival spotlights local artistic talent alongside live musical performances. It also happens to coincide with the opening reception for a new exhibition at 87 Florida. Pick up programs for the event at Big Bear Cafe, and make sure to complete the art hunt, which is good for free drinks and discounts at local hangouts. (Aug. 1)

If you love to stay up-to-date on the next big thing, then head over to Conner Contemporary. For the ninth year in a row, the gallery is celebrating the best that local MFA grads have to offer with "Academy 2009." The artists from these academy shows have gone onto great things, from exhibiting work at the Hirshhorn to showing their art at the British Museum in London, so this could be your chance to say "I saw that artist way back when...." (Aug. 1-Sept. 12)

Phillips After 5, an event with a cash bar and live music at the museum, is going weekly for five consecutive weeks starting the first Thursday in August. What better way to kick off the series than by sharing embarrassing childhood moments? Performers from the group Mortified will be there to do just that; their source material includes everything from cringe-worthy teen diaries to love letters to home movies. Phillips staff will also be giving talks on sex and death themes in the current exhibition "Paint Made Flesh." (Thursdays, Aug. 6-Sept. 3)

The Portrait Gallery is throwing a spotlight on Thomas Paine this month with "a show dedicated to the divisive founding father." The author of "Common Sense" and "The Age of Reason" was derided for his views on religion (he wasn't too fond of the organized variety), but his integral role in the American and French revolutions makes him an intriguing figure. The centerpiece of the show will be a depiction of Paine completed in 1792 by Laurent Dabos. (Aug. 7-April 4)

The fourth Renwick Craft Invitational kicks off this month with a show of four contemporary artists who work in fiber, glass and ceramic. The show is a little off-the-wall compared to the usual Renwick fare. Expect to find superhero suits, ceramic sculptures of figures that could have strolled in from the Garden of Earthly Delights, and nude sculptures with pool floaties. (Aug. 7-Jan. 3)

Conner Contemporary isn't the only gallery celebrating art schools' classes of 2009. "Introductions 5" at Irvine Contemporary is a juried show of works by eight recent grads, selected from a pool of more than 200 applicants. (Aug. 8-Sept. 5)

The Textile Museum will have a special two-week exhibition of clothing that belonged to Ann Dunham, also known as the mother of Barack Obama. "A Lady Found a Culture in Its Cloth" features the Indonesian batik dresses that Dunham wore while living in Jakarta in the 1960s. (Aug.9-23)

While the intriguing programming at the Botanic Garden seems to be filling up fast (chocolate tasting, anyone?), there's no need to register in advance for the Culinary Arts Festival. The two-part celebration of plant life includes nature-inspired art and food samples and demonstrations to emphasize how we use plants in our food. (Aug. 22)

-- Stephanie

By Stephanie Merry  | July 30, 2009; 10:05 AM ET
Categories:  Museums  
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