Rally: Saturday, September 17 from 12pm to 1pm
Washington Project for the Arts (WPA) announces SHELDON FOR DC, a public art performance directed by the artist Sheldon Scott. The citywide performance revolves around the campaign of a candidate — referred to simply as “Sheldon” and played by a half-dozen actors — who is running to become DC’s first Minister of Culture. It will unfold over the next two months in the form of rallies, door-to-door campaigning, meet-the-candidate social events, and an 8-Ward whistle-stop tour.
“This is a campaign with a real agenda, which is, simply put, about putting artists first in the policies that impact our city’s culture,” says Peter Nesbett, WPA’s executive director and Sheldon’s Campaign Manager. “That is why it is so well aligned with WPA’s interests. It doesn’t much matter that the office of Minister of Culture doesn’t yet exist.”
SHELDON FOR DC promises a brighter, more creative future for DC. The campaign seeks to unite and rally hundreds of actors, artists, dancers, designers, musicians, and writers into a potent, vocal, political force. If it achieves this, SHELDON FOR DC could become a movement, with a life that extends well beyond this election cycle. If it doesn’t, it will be understood, retrospectively, as an episodic piece of performance art.
The campaign kicks off with a rally at The Big Chair in Anacostia on Saturday, September 17, from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. Additional events can be found on the campaign website at www.sheldon4dc.org.
Situating a project like SHELDON FOR DC within the history of art is not a particularly easy task. Few visual artists have held political office in the U.S. since the painter George Caleb Bingham was elected to the Missouri legislature in 1848. Ad Reinhardt famously ran and lost in the race for New York City mayor in the 1930s, as did Patrick Brill (aka Bob & Roberta Smith), who ran for Parliament in London in 2014. But this project, with its fictitious basis, obviously isn’t about winning or losing an election. Instead, it is about mobilizing a constituency. It is about listening and giving voice to DC’s artist community, imagining a city where artists have a seat at the table in local government and cultural planning, and forging a vision for DC culture in the future.
“Today, I am pleased to announce my candidacy for Minister of Culture of the District of Columbia.
I look forward to a campaign guided by rigorous debate, fresh ideas, and strengthening support for our creative constituents! Our campaign vows to focus on “Our Culture. Our Future.” We will champion the artists who make our city and our world a more innovative and inspiring place.
Our campaign is built on three ideas:
- CELEBRATING OUR PAST. We will preserve, expand, and celebrate the many cultural gifts DC has shared with the world. A Go-Go Museum and Festival will document and share the history of our unique music. We will highlight for the millions who visit DC the rich local legacies of Punk, Painting, and Performance Art. We will interpret the DC’s distinct contributions theater, jazz, and R&B within a global context. We will celebrate the legacies of DC-born legends like Duke Ellington, Marvin Gaye, Martin Puryear, and Alma Thomas.
- INVESTING IN OUR PRESENT. A city that attracts the best and brightest for politics and diplomacy should attract the best and brightest in culture and the arts. This requires a fresh take on our municipal relationship to art. As Minister of Culture, I will have the city invest in the arts with the same rigor we have invested in athletics. We will put forth a plan to ensure access to sustainable rehearsal, studio, and living space. We will see the great benefits that cultural investment returns to our community in terms of wellness and wealth.
- SHAPING OUR FUTURE. As Minister, I will champion STEAM initiatives to ensure that our children are competitive in the global marketplace, and that the arts are held at the same regard as science, technology, engineering, and math. Educational data and research are unequivocal about the value of our children having creative problem-solving skills. What a robust STEAM education also allows is for children with the least of means to access that improve life outcomes. I will put the evolving needs of children first.
This platform will build a brighter, more creative future for DC. This future will be filled with people who are proud and unified under the love of all our cultures, and benefitting from all that has been made, continues to be created, and will be created by our children, and theirs in turn.”
All artists are encouraged to fill out a SHELDON FOR DC ballot-survey. This can be done online at www.sheldon4dc.org/participate/, or in person, by visiting the campaign headquarters at 2124 8th St NW (near V St), Wednesday through Saturday, 12 – 6 p.m.
For more information on the campaign, as well as a schedule of events, please visit www.sheldon4dc.org/.
Press inquiries should be directed to Jeremy Flick, Campaign Communications Director, at [email protected]
The campaign is looking for dozens of volunteers. Interested? Contact Nathalie von Veh, Director of Political Engagement, at [email protected]