Life, Liberty, Happiness: By The People Pursues Ideals, Innovations in New Citywide Festival

July 1, 2018 | Mackenzie Wienger, Washington Diplomat

Life, Liberty, Happiness: By The People Pursues Ideals, Innovations in New Citywide Festival

A new international arts and dialogue festival —themed around America’s founding ideals — has arrived in Washington, D.C., with grand ambitions to shake up the city’s arts scene and status. By The People, held across over a dozen locations from June 21 to 24, was designed to showcase an array of performances, art installations and speakers with a particularly Washington bent. Inspired by the theme of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” the festival aims to promote empathy, build cultural bridges and spark a civil discourse at a time when the nation’s discourse is anything but. It hosted dozens of artists, speakers, musicians and dancers — with most events almost entirely free to the public. And unlike many other festivals, the featured events were anything but conventional. Highlights included an augmented reality art hunt; knitting and crocheting sculptures that paid homage to nurses; an interactive installation that mimicked a prison cell; mindfulness workshops that let participants become artists; a 20-year time capsule of letters written to the next generation of women; discussions where people were randomly paired with strangers or explored topics such as whether true human connection can be found online; and a nontraditional dance performed inside a 17-foot U-Haul truck.

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