Artist Sheryl Oring took up this cause célèbre in 2004. In conversations across time, we trace her synthesis of art and free speech in a public performance project that quite naturally, has no end in sight. As long as there is democracy in the United States, there will be opportunities to voice opinions about the U.S. presidency, about social justice, the economy, public health, globalization, climate change, education, and more.
What would YOU wish to say to the U.S. President?
Let us know on Instagram: @freshartintl #iwishtosay
Sound Editor: Anamnesis Audio | Special Audio: Sheryl Oring at Washington and Lee University, 2018; Sheryl Oring on ABC World News Tonight, 2010; I Wish to Say with University of Michigan and Wayne State University students, 2020; Lisa Bielawa, Voters’ Broadcast, 2020
Related Links: Sheryl Oring, I Wish to Say, Activating Democracy (the book), The First Amendment Project, Oakland, CA, Creative Capital Foundation, W&L Quick Hit: Sheryl Oring Performs I Wish to Say, Sheryl Oring on ABC World News Tonight, I Wish to Say Archive, University of Michigan, Democracy & Debate Theme Semester, Stamps Gallery, Lisa Bielawa, Voters’ Broadcast, Mauer Broadcast with Lisa Bielawa, The Berlin Wall
I Wish to Say, 2004 to Present: “I Wish to Say” grew out of artist Sheryl Oring’s concern that not enough voices were being heard about the state-of-affairs in this country and her belief in the value of free expression that is guaranteed under the United States Constitution.
For this project, Oring sets up a portable public office—complete with a manual typewriter—and invites people to dictate postcards to the U.S. President. This ongoing project began in 2004 with a commission from The First Amendment Project in Oakland, CA, and has had two national tours thanks to grant support from the Creative Capital Foundation. As of April 28, 2021, 4,106 postcards have been sent to the White House as part of this project. An archive of the project from 2004 through 2016 is hosted by the University of North Carolina at Greensboro Library.
Voters’ Broadcast, 2020: Rome Prize and American Academy of Arts & Letters Award-winning Lisa Bielawa composed and produced Voters’ Broadcast with text excerpted from Sheryl Oring’s I Wish to Say, Postcards to the President, 2004-2020. Bielawa’s mission with this performance was to stimulate voter engagement, political awareness, and community participation in challenging lockdown conditions, through the act of giving voice to the concerns of fellow citizens, during the lead-up to the 2020 Presidential election. Voters’ Broadcast was composed as a broadly participatory musical performance for an unlimited number of voices and instruments made up of choral and instrumental ensembles, and Sing Leaders.
Commissioned as part of the Democracy and Debate Theme Semester by the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor with support from its School of Music, Theatre & Dance, and developed in partnership with Kaufman Music Center in New York, where Bielawa is a 2020-21 Artist in Residence.