Thursday, September 08, 2016

DC's first Minister of Culture

Washington Project for the Arts (WPA) has announced 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, from12:00 to 1:00 p.m. Additional events can be found on the campaign website at
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.

For that reason, WPA is complementing the campaign-performance with events that reflect on the relationship of art and politics:

Kate McGraw on How to Run for Political Office
Thursday, September 22, 6:30 p.m.
Artist and former DC resident Kate McGraw is running as an Independent for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Come learn what Kate has picked up along the way, how being an artist has informed her political thinking, and how you too might start your own campaign.
Born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Kate McGraw earned a BFA from Penn State University and a MFA from CUNY Brooklyn College. She has exhibited at Curator's Office, Washington, DC; Katzen Art Center, Washington, DC; Zentral Bibliothek of Zurich, Switzerland; among other venues; and has received grants from DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and the Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation. McGraw currently works to give voice to sustainable agricultural issues and animal welfare awareness in the arts

Ellen Lupton on Campaign Identities, with Christian Dutilh of Composite Co.
Wednesday, October 26, 6:30 p.m.

Curator of contemporary design at Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York City, and director of the Graphic Design MFA program at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore, Ellen Lupton is one of the pre-eminent design curators and editors in the U.S. Join us for an evening on the history of campaign identity design. She will be joined by Christian Dutilh, co-designer of the SHELDON FOR DC platform.

Ellen Lupton is 2007 recipient of the AIGA Gold Medal, one of the highest honors given to a graphic designer or design educator in the U.S. Her publications include Thinking with Type (2004), Design Your Life: The Pleasures and Perils of Everyday Things (2009), and Graphic Design Thinking (2011).

Christian Dutilh is Principal of Composite Co., a branding and design studi

For more information on these events and SHELDON FOR DC, please visit

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