National Park Service Retracts Approval to Install R-Evolution Sculpture of Woman
on National Mall at 11th Hour
Organization Behind Healing & Equality Vigil Seeking Legal Support to Assert First Amendment Rights
WASHINGTON, DC – Catharsis on the Mall, the group organizing to bring R-Evolution, a giant sculpture of a meditating woman by artist Marco Cochrane, to the National Mall for a vigil starting in November is stunned by the sudden last-minute retraction made by the National Park Service (NPS) after the agency had approved the action back on September 14. In a correspondence received by Catharsis organizers after close of business on October 25 from NPS Acting Regional Director Rick Obernesser, the agency stated that it is revoking that approval claiming it was issued “in error” as the government has a “substantial interest” in preserving the turf and aesthetics of the National Mall due to its historical significance. The agency also denied the permit for an extended vigil that would’ve taken place around R-Evolution to bring awareness to violence against women and the Equal Rights Amendment through February 1, 2018.
“We are looking to formalize litigation with a firm or organization committed to defending our First Amendment rights to use this sculpture to affect change in Washington, D.C.,” says Catharsis Spokeswoman Natalie White. “We need a law firm willing to take on overly restrictive NPS rules that inappropriately seem to value the preservation of the perceived aesthetic of the National Mall over First Amendment activities. Historical use of this public space includes free speech demonstrations that continue to shape the character of our country.”
White, also a visual artist who last year brought a life-size naked bronze sculpture of herself to Catharsis, is an activist for the Equal Rights Amendment. With the installation of R-Evolution, White and Catharsis supporters intended to maintain a 24/7 vigil through the anniversary of the Women’s March, after Catharsis concludes on November 12. The Catharsis vigil also intended to honor the Silent Sentinels, who were Suffragettes that, despite arrests and police beatings, spent two years vigiling for the right to vote in front of the White House. The Catharsis vigil also sought to solemnly commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the “Night of Terror,” when 33 Silent Sentinels were brutally tortured and beaten by the jail guards after being arrested for non-violently demanding the right to vote.
Catharsis on the Mall is co-created by dozens of core volunteers, artists, and activists; and thousands of participants. In the October 25 correspondence, NPS did grant approval for the rest of its activities.
“We raised more than $90,000 in less than a month from hundreds of people who support our message and believe in what we are doing.” says Catharsis organizer Natalie “Ethos” De Leon. “Despite how NPS has chosen to handle R-Evolution, the rest of the Catharsis vigil to be held November 10-12 is still permitted, including the ceremonial burn and other major art installations. Our community will share beautiful art and programming dedicated to harnessing the themes of nurturing the heart, feminine empowerment, and unity that R-Evolution helped inspire.”
Each year, the demonstration has revolved around a different theme, with the first two years focusing on healing from the drug war and recovering from trauma. For its third year, the group originally planned to install the sculpture as the centerpiece of its third annual “Catharsis on the Mall” vigil featuring unique displays of community art, interactive experiences for all ages, lectures, discussions, workshops, music, unstructured spaces intended to facilitate the healing arts, and a ceremonial burn.
Announcement of the September 14 approval of R-Evolution resulted in more than 500 individual donations to the Catharsis crowdfund, including a Community Innovation Grant from the Burning Man Project and generous support from the Bronner Family, countless hours of work by volunteers, and tens of thousands of dollars spent in preparation to bring the sculpture to Washington, D.C. Catharsis organizers are now seeking the advice of First Amendment experts to defend its right to free speech and peaceful assembly, given the harm done by NPS’s “error.”
“We originally applied for this permit in December 2016 and had every reason to be hopeful that the National Park Service would allow R-Evolution to be installed for Catharsis and the extended vigil. We were required to submit detailed plans, engineering drawings, installation schedules, and equipment lists for the project in August, which the NPS spent a month reviewing before it gave written approval of the project in September,” says Robert “Roman” Haferd, an attorney and board member of Catharsis on the Mall, who handled permitting for the group. “We received no indication of anything disqualifying in our permit application until the media began reporting on the story, at which point the NPS suddenly took issue with the impact it would have on the historic sites, something the NPS knew all along.”
For more information about R-Evolution and The Bliss Project, please visit: http://www.marcocochranesculpture.net/r-evolution/
For more information about Catharsis on the Mall, please visit: http://catharsisonthemall.com
For more information about the Equal Rights Amendment, please visit: http://www.equalrightsamendment.org/
For interview requests of Catharsis on the Mall organizers, artists, and its partners, please contact Media Liaisons: Natalie White, 347-696-6864, email@example.com; Lauren Berlekamp, 202-657-7754, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please follow Catharsis on the Mall on social media: Facebook @catharsisonthemall – Twitter @CatharsisDC – Instagram @catharsisonthemall