Art & Activism in the Nation’s Capital

Projection by Rockne Krebs on the facade of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, DC

In conjunction with the Raw Hope of Humanity Rising public dialogues at the American University Museum, and online via the Third Space Network, beginning Wednesday, March 4, 6-7:30pm, the Art & Activism Information Hub will give audiences direct access to organizations on the front lines of art, social change & political action. Come & engage with the following organizations: Current Movements, Grassroots DC Media Collective, AU College Democratics, and the Washington Project for the Arts.


When I moved to Washington in 1999, the only DC artist-activist event I knew of was the legendary Rockne Krebs projection on the Corcoran Gallery of Art in protest of the Robert Mapplethorpe Show cancellation in 1989. The event had made national news when Jock Reynolds of the Washington Project for the Arts intervened and presented the controversial show at the WPA alternative art space. Since my move to DC, I have come to know the Washington arts scene more intimately, including the artists & activists who have presented their artistic mediations in local galleries, museums, online, and the physical space of the nation’s capital.

A few years after my move to Washington, 9/11 hit like a nuclear explosion, sending shockwaves through the political capital. At that moment, I realized the urgency of inserting the artistic voice into the national dialogue, particularly since the US, unlike most countries, lacks a cultural ministry. So I created one: the US Department of Art & Technology, an artist-driven virtual government agency. In the spirit of Rockne Krebs, I used the nation’s capital as my canvas, except that my canvas was not the physical space, but rather the virtual world, where space & imagination has no limits. Since the US Department of Art & Technology was intended to exist in the virtual, I appropriated the building of the US Department of the Interior, which oversees the physical domain of America, and made it my own fictitious headquarters of the imaginary.

US Department of Art & Technology headquarters, 2002

Since then, I have collaborated with several DC artists who have taken it upon themselves to take on the artistic cause of critiquing & challenging a broad range of political issues with humor, tenacity, and conviction: believing, that while the artist may not be able to change the world, there is the potential for social and political transformation in the way people think & talk about the problems of the world. One of the first artists I worked with was Jeff Gates, who had created the ArtFBI (Artists for a Better Image) project during the 1990s, and then later introduced me to blogging, so I quickly recruited him as a staff member to create the WetheBlog project for the US Department of Art & Technology in 2003, one of the first anti-war blogs.

WetheBlog, Jeff Gates

I later met several Washington-based political artists, whose works have entered into the lexicon of DC art & activism, including: Jim Sanborn who created the installation Critical Assembly, a re-creation of the Los Alamos laboratory where the atomic bomb was invented; multimedia artist Alberto Gaitán, who was active with the collaborative artist collective Art Attack International during the 1980s; Hasan Elahi, who has been self-surveilling his life & work in his ongoing project Tracking Transience since he was harassed by the FBI (the real one) shortly after 9/11; Mansoora Hassan, who has confronted disinformation surrounding Muslims by performing in a full Afghan Burka in front of the White House; and Robin Bell, who built an entire body of work around public projections in the nation’s capital, most notably at TRUMP International Hotel.

Crime Scene Do Not Enter, TRUMP International Hotel, Robin Bell

Most recently, as DC is the media capital of 24/7 political punditry, I activated the Third Space Network (3SN), an alternative Internet broadcast platform intended as an empowering act of becoming our own broadcast media. I fired up 3SN for the tumultuous election year of 2020 to broadcast monthly Networked Conversations with DC artists & activists, as well as organize the Raw Hope of Humanity Rising public dialogues at the American University Museum. Through these two projects, I have been introduced to a new generation of artists & activists on the front lines of social & political change. Foremost, there is Sheldon Scott, who I recently interviewed on Networked Conversations. Besides his powerful work as a performance artist invoking African American narratives of slavery & oppression, Scott is active on the DC art scene as a genuine rabble rouser, from his work with the socially engaged Eaton Hotel/Workshop, as curator for the Halcyon House initiative By the People festival for 2020, and his notorious run for Minister of Culture in 2016, Sheldon for DC, a project hosted by the Washington Project for the Arts and its director aka campaign manager, Peter Nesbett

Peter Nesbett & Sheldon Scott, Sheldon for DC

Through my interviews and dialogues for 2020, my research has taken me far & wide across the activist landscape of DC, including: artist & curator Joseph Orzal, whose NoMüNoMü collective has created numerous exhibitions in Washington dealing with politics, race, and class distinctions; Katie Petitt, an incredibly energetic community organizer and founding director of Current Movements, whose focus is on presenting activist filmmakers; Liane Scott, independent media producer and president of the Grassroots DC Media Collective, which is taking on the media giants by educating a new generation of independent media activists; and last but not least, Lily Hart, Director of Activism for the American University College Democrats, who no doubt has her work cut out in 2020! Let’s hope this next generation of artists, activists, media makers, and radical journalists working in the nation’s capital can bring about change & raw hope of humanity rising.


In conjunction with the Raw Hope of Humanity Rising public dialogues at the American University Museum, and online via the Third Space Network, beginning Wednesday, March 4, 6-7:30pm, the Art & Activism Information Hub will give audiences direct access to organizations on the front lines of art, social change & political action. Come & engage with the following organizations: Current Movements, Grassroots DC Media Collective, AU College Democratics, and the Washington Project for the Arts.