About the Festival

By The People is an international arts and dialogue festival presented by Halcyon. Launched in 2018, the festival brings visual art, performing art, and dialogue to all four quadrants of Washington, DC, all completely free and open to the public. Each year a different curator interprets the festival’s founding themes: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The inaugural 2018 festival saw over 26,000 visits to official By The People festival events and over 50,000 visits to Smithsonian museums during the affiliated Smithsonian Solstice events. Massive installations, performances ranging from ballet to go-go, high profile speakers, and an augmented reality art hunt set the tone for future By The People events: we will always be pushing the envelope, creating new and thrilling ways for anyone to fan their creative spark by experiencing world-class art.

So that’s what it is. But why do we do it?

Halcyon is a new kind of nonprofit - always evolving to stay true to our mission: catalyzing civic-minded artists and social entrepreneurs striving for a better world. It started with an early-stage social enterprise incubator, Halcyon Incubator, and expanded in 2018 with the addition of a second residential fellowship program: Halcyon Arts Lab.

By The People, which includes installations from Halcyon Arts Lab fellows, grew out of the same commitment to nurturing creativity, just on a much larger scale. We believe that the creativity it takes to change the world isn’t something that only a few special people have, and By The People is about building bridges within and across communities, fanning the creative spark in everyone. If exposure to art and dialogue can make us brave, or thoughtful, or inspire us to engage with one another in new ways, then it acts as the catalyst in Halcyon’s mission, giving us the tools to strive for a better world.

2019 Curator: Jessica Stafford Davis

Jessica Stafford Davis is the founder of The Agora Culture LLC, (TAC) a national online multicultural arts platform that supports emerging artists of color and collectors through educational programming, art salons, and its annual Art On the Vine exhibition in Martha’s Vineyard. One of the only contemporary African-American art fairs presenting critically-acclaimed, institutional-level work in the United States, Art On the Vine also features a four-week residency named for acclaimed visual artists, Augusta Savage, and Norman Lewis. Through the Savage-Lewis residency, selected artists are provided with an opportunity to collaborate and create new works as part of an effort to help them grow and explore their creative practices.  

Ms. Stafford Davis's mission to highlight African-American artists extends into her special curatorial projects including her most recent exhibition of Jon-Serie Goff's work in collaboration with the Middleburg Film Festival. RECLAMATION, inspired by the history of Middleburg, Virginia was an exhibition that centered enslaved and free Black laborers whose presence and history had long been forgotten by the general public.

In addition, Ms. Stafford Davis is the 2018 and first recipient of the Arena Stage Emerging Leader Award. She currently serves as a member of the George Mason University School of Art Advisory Board and is an ArtTable member.  Previously, she served as a board member of Washington Project for the Arts and The Smith Center for Healing in the Arts. She received her Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science from George Mason University. She resides in McLean, Virginia with her two sons.