Leon Reid’s ‘Tourist-in-Chief’ Project Gets O.K. From Parks Department


Despite a unanimous vote in favor from Community Board 5, the Parks Department had seemed bent on denying “Tourist-in-Chief,” the public art project by Leon Reid IV in which he hoped to dress Union Square’s George Washington statue in tourist accoutrement: “I Love NY” cap, camera, subway map, and shopping bags. But it seems they’ve had a change of heart. The artist wrote to us today to let us know the news: “‘Tourist-In-Chief’ has been permitted by the Parks Dept.”

The purpose of the project:

The project is designed to transform the appearance of George Washington from military general to modern tourist. Installation is on view Saturday, October 1 from 8am-7pm as part of Art In Odd Places 2011 festival Ritual.

The three objectives of “Tourist-In-Chief” are:

1. Reflect cultural atmosphere of Union Square.
2. Make Washington more relatable to contemporary audience.
3. Inform public about Washington’s role in NYC history.

As for the statue of George Washington — in which he is shown on his march down Broadway during Evacuation Day 1783 — it was created in 1856 and is the oldest in New York City’s possession. This is the first time an artist has been allowed to use the statue in a work of art. How did the Parks Department finally change their mind? Reid told us, “The short answer is that my attorney Phillip Z. Kimball and I worked very closely with the Parks Department to find a way for the project to work. I thank the Department for giving the go-ahead on a project that involves one of their most prized statues.”

Check it out at Union Square this Saturday, and look for Art in Odd Places, featuring visual performance art in public spaces along 14th Street. (Tonight’s opening reception takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. at Theaterlab at 137 14th Street.)