Jenny Holzer


Art in Embassies presented a new light projection by renowned artist and past State Department Medal of Arts honoree Jenny Holzer. The artwork, THE PEOPLE, commemorated Art in Embassies’ 60th anniversary and its Democracy Collection initiative, lighting up the National Mall with quotations spanning history that evoke the beauty of democracy. The projection began on September 17, 2023, with a special opening concert featuring “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band and continued nightly through September 21.
THE PEOPLE, 2023 Light projection Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC Text: Barack Obama, address on the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery marches, Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, Alabama, March 7, 2015. © 2023 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY Photo: Filip Wolak

THE PEOPLE appeared on the National Mall sixty years after the March on Washington, one of the most resonant moments for our democracy,” said Megan Beyer, Director of Art in Embassies. “Jenny Holzer’s inspiring projection celebrating democracy and its values underscores what we have seen—that artists are the best ambassadors for freedom because they survive on freedom.” 

Projection Attributions

Deepest gratitude to the text contributors as well as to their families and associates. THE PEOPLE shares words from:

Madeleine Albright
Maya Angelou
Susan B. Anthony
Lloyd J. Austin
Ella Baker
James Baldwin
George H. W. Bush
Andrew Carnegie
Jimmy Carter
Shirley Chisholm
Thomas Cole
Susan Collins
Anna Julia Cooper
James Fenimore Cooper
Declaration of Indian Purpose
Alexis De Tocqueville
Rosalyn Deutsche
Emily Dickinson
Frederick Douglass
W. E. B. Du Bois
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Olaudah Equiano
Medgar Evers
Nancy Fraser
Mohandas Gandhi
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Fannie Lou Hamer
Alexander Hamilton
Frances E. W. Harper

Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy)
Dolores Huerta
Langston Hughes
John Jay
Thomas Jefferson
James Weldon Johnson
Lyndon B. Johnson
Barbara C. Jordan
John F. Kennedy
Robert F. Kennedy
Martin Luther King Jr.
Emma Lazarus
Yoon Ha Lee
Claude Lefort
Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt
John Lewis
Abraham Lincoln
Leopoldo Lopez
James Russell Lowell
Nelson Mandela
John McCain
Harvey Milk
John Stuart Mill
Mark Milley
Henry Morgenthau Sr.
Toni Morrison
John Muir
Diane Nash
Aimee Nezhukumatathil
Lynn Nottage
Barack Obama
Michelle Obama

Pussy Riot, Nadya Tolokonnikova
Jeannette Rankin
Eleanor Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
Bayard Rustin
James E. Ryan
Catherine Amy Dawson Scott
Betty Shabazz
Margaret Chase Smith
Baruch Spinoza
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Gloria Steinem
Maria Stewart
Wisława Szymborska
Mary Church Terrell
Henry David Thoreau
Mamie Till-Mobley
Harry S. Truman
Harriet Tubman
Cadwell Turnbull
Henry McNeal Turner
Wai Hnin Pwint Thon
George Washington
Ida B. Wells
Phillis Wheatley
E. B. White
Walt Whitman
Reverend Peter Williams
Damon Wilson
Victoria C. Woodhull
Frances Wright

the artist

Jenny Holzer

For more than 40 years, Jenny Holzer has presented her astringent ideas, arguments, joys, and sorrows in public places and international exhibitions, including the Venice Biennale, the Guggenheim Museums in New York and Bilbao, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Her medium, whether a T-shirt, plaque, or LED sign, is writing, and the public dimension is integral to her work. Starting in the 1970s with New York City street posters and continuing through her recent light projections on landscape and architecture, her practice has rivaled ignorance and violence with humor, kindness, and courage. Holzer received the Leone d’Oro at the Venice Biennale in 1990, the World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award in 1996, and the State Department’s Medal of Arts in 2017. She holds honorary degrees from Williams College, the Rhode Island School of Design, the New School, and Smith College. She lives and works in New York.