In honor of this year’s Festival of Lights, visitors to the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco will enjoy free general admission to the museum’s collection and access to a full suite of family programming on Oct. 23.

From 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., visitors can enjoy music, dance, storytelling, legendary art — and traditional sweets. Performances include recitals of classical Indian and Javanese dance styles by masters bringing their talents to the stage from across the Bay Area. 

At 11 a.m., Guatam Tejas Ganeshan will conduct a concert of classical Indian music, starting with an outdoor performance on Fulton Street Mall with drums and percussion, followed by an interactive classical Indian singing workshop from 3:30-4:30 p.m. in the museum’s Samsung Hall for families and curious visitors alike interested in participating and learning more.

In addition, during the afternoon a cross-cultural comparison of dance styles — Odissi, Bharatanatyam, and Kathak — will showcase dance interpretations of the Rama epic and feature performances by Niharika Mohanty and Navia Natarajan, among others. 

Activities for families will focus on Diwali customs, like making your own diya lamp. In addition to regular tales of the “wicked, the wily, and the wise” performed in the galleries, the museum’s award-winning troupe of storytellers will also share thrilling episodes from Valmiki’s Ramayana. 

The free festivities coincide with the opening of the museum’s major fall exhibition “The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe” premiering that same weekend and open to all on Sunday for a modest surcharge of $10 (free for 12-and-under). This unprecedented exhibition explores the key characters of the beloved classic, with artworks from 1,500 years ago to today revealing how depictions of Rama, Sita, Hanuman, and Ravana — as well as their regional variations — have evolved over the centuries. 

Works showcased in the exhibition originate from India, Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia and are borrowed from museums across the U.S., U.K. and Europe. Rare temple sculptures and paintings made for 17th-century royal courts will appear alongside works by modern artists reinterpreting the story in innovative ways, immersing visitors in the enduring appeal of the Rama epic’s main characters. The Asian Art Museum will be the only venue to see these diverse works together.                                                   

(“The Rama Epic: Hero, Heroine, Ally, Foe” – On view at the Asian Art Museum Oct. 21, 2016 – Jan. 15, 2017. Free Diwali activities 10:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on Oct. 23, 2016.)

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