NPT and Local Museums Commemorate the Great War with Programs, Exhibits

In April 1917, the United States entered the First World War, a conflict that had been consuming Europe for two-and-a-half years. NPT is airing The Great War, a documentary miniseries, and a special Great Performances dance presentation to mark the centennial of U.S. involvement in the war. If these programs spark your interest in the war and its aftermath, be sure to check out the museum exhibitions mentioned later in this post.

Great War programming
Great Performances: Young Men on Friday, April 7, at 8 p.m.
World War I had a profound influence on the visual and performing arts, literature and other cultural genres. Generations later, the BalletBoyz dance troupe commissioned a work to tell the story of infantrymen caught in the collision of 19th-century battle techniques and 20th-century weaponry. Choreographed by Iván Pérez to a score by English folk rock musician Keaton Henson, Young Men premiered at the Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London in 2015. The ballet was filmed on location in Northern France for Great Performances.


The Great War: American Experience, Monday – Wednesday, April 10 – 12, at 8 p.m.
Shown in two-hour blocks over three days, The Great War provides a comprehensive look at how involvement in World War I led to social change in the United States. The miniseries pays particular attention to the contributions of African Americans, Native Americans and women.

Episode I covers the beginnings of the war, including the August 1914 assassination of Archduke Ferdinand; the 1915 sinking of the Lusitania, in which 128 Americans died; and growing public pressure on President Wilson for the U.S. to join the war effort. Episode 2 picks up in Spring 1917, with the U.S. preparing for war abroad while confronting domestic issues such as segregation and the suppression of free speech as dissent about the war grew. Finally, Episode 3 examines how the United States found a new international role after the war.

The Same Spirit, a war poster, by Charles Gustine referencing the Spirit of Seventy-Six painting. Tennessee State Museum


Exhibiting the war

The Tennessee State Museum opens a new exhibit, “The Yanks are Coming: Tennesseans in World War I” Thursday, April 6, and is also hosting a ceremony commemorating America’s entry into World War I at noon that day. This small selection of posters, photographs and other items is a companion exhibit to the larger one on view in the Military Museum in the War Memorial Building. Additionally, the museum’s collection of World War I materials is available online at tnmuseum.org/WWIonline.

In October of this year, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts will open “World War I and American Art,” the first major exhibition to examine how American artists reacted to the First World War. George Bellows, Childe Hassam and Georgia O’Keeffe are among the 50 artists whose works are featured in this show organized by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. John Singer Sargent’s Gassed, on loan from London’s Imperial War Museum, is one of the high-profile pieces in the show. This battlefield scene depicts a line of British soldiers being led to a medical station with their heads wrapped in gauze to protect their eyes from toxic mustard gas. Other works consider America’s struggle with neutrality vs. action; preparing for war; and celebrating and mourning following the war. “World War I and American Art” will be on view from Oct. 6, 2017, through Jan. 21, 2018.

John Singer Sargent (1856–1925). A Street in Arras, 1918. Watercolor on paper, Imperial War Museums, London, England.

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