The National Mall, a historic canvas of the nation’s capital, is poised to host a fusion of art and democratic ideals. The U.S. Department of State’s Office of Art in Embassies, in collaboration with celebrated artist Jenny Holzer, will present “THE PEOPLE,” a light projection from September 17 to 21. This visual endeavor commemorates the 60th anniversary of Art in Embassies and its Democracy Collection initiative, intertwining historical quotations that resonate with the ethos of democracy.
The projection, set to grace the façades of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, offers a curated selection of historical reflections. These words, carefully chosen, aim to evoke contemplation on the essence and evolution of democratic values.
Megan Beyer, Director of Art in Embassies, contextualized the artwork within the broader historical landscape. “THE PEOPLE’s debut on the National Mall comes six decades after the March on Washington, reminding us of democracy’s enduring spirit,” Beyer noted, highlighting the intrinsic connection between artistic expression and freedom.
Ambassador Will Moser shared insights on the transformative potential of art diplomacy. Drawing from his experiences in Kazakhstan and Moldova, Moser emphasized the unique opportunities U.S. artists bring in fostering dialogues about democracy on a global stage.
Jenny Holzer, renowned for her evocative public art installations, selected a poignant quote from Mary Church Terrell, an early advocate for civil rights and women’s suffrage, to encapsulate the spirit of the projection: “IN UNION THERE IS STRENGTH IS A TRUISM THAT HAS BEEN ACTED UPON.”
The unveiling event on Sunday promises an immersive experience for art enthusiasts. Set to commence at 6:30 pm near the National Museum of American History, the evening will feature the melodic performances of “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, complemented by remarks from Secretary of the Navy, Carlos Del Toro.
This projection serves as a prelude to Democracy Day on September 19 at the National Museum of American History. In partnership with the University of Virginia’s Karsh Institute of Democracy, the day will unfold with artist panels, performances, and dialogues, featuring notable artists and cultural figures. The evening will culminate with an exclusive look at the “A More Perfect Union” exhibition.
Anthea M. Hartig, Director of the National Museum of American History, and Melody Barnes, of the Karsh Institute of Democracy, both underscored the role of art in fostering dialogue and reflection on democratic principles.
Supported by esteemed institutions like the Ford Foundation and The Boeing Company, Holzer’s “THE PEOPLE” stands as a testament to the belief that art can inspire and engage. Nora Halpern, the curator behind this initiative, emphasized the significance of the National Mall as a space of historical and democratic resonance.
The Office of Art in Embassies, with its legacy since 1963, continues to champion the intersection of art and diplomacy, curating exhibitions for U.S. diplomatic venues worldwide.