Four years ago, artist Andrew Purchin was perched on the National Mall -- with his easel and oil paints -- as Barack Obama delivered his first words as president of the United States.
"(Most amazing): What I painted was the people actually listening really reverently to the inauguration proceedings and it was the most amazing moment of my life so far, I would say," Purchin says.
The result was an impressionistic oil painting near the Washington Monument, capturing the throngs of people who turned out to witness history, as the first black president was sworn into office.
“You know, the way people can be from a distance they become candy, little tiny candy sprinkled on a cake,” Purchin says. “And then up-close these beautiful people just in the moment of their lives.”
Purchin is back in D.C. this year with the project he calls “A Thousand Artists." It began with his train ride from Santa Cruz, to Washington D.C. Along the way, he and other artists created pieces. “When people create they become more innovative and reflective and I think that's what America needs,” he says.
Purchin finds artistic inspiration in politics. Earlier this year, he took his creativity to the Republican Convention in Tampa, Florida and the Democratic gathering in Charlotte, North Carolina. He used scenes outside the convention centers to fill his canvas with images of the political frenzy.
Purchin decided before the winner of this year’s presidential election was known to do an art project on the Capitol Mall during the inauguration. He says the project is bipartisan, but he acknowledges most of the painters he knows are Democrats.
“People don't usually associate the Republican Party with creativity and artistic discourse,” Purchin says. He adds, “I don't want that stereotype to be true, I don't think it's helpful and I want to encourage people of both parties to be involved in art making.”
In 2009 some 2 million people turned out for President Obama’s first inaugural. The police in Washington, D.C. are expecting less than half that many this time. And Purchin says this time is different for him too.
“I was going to give up on my 1000 Artists project as I kind of watched history dissipate and hope dissipate,” he says. “And then with some conversations with friends I actually went and did a 180 and said 'No, this is historical. This moment is historical.’ "
Last time, Purchin - and everyone else at the inauguration - suffered through bitter cold. This time he’s hoping for friendlier weather. “We don't know if it's going to be raining or snowing or sleeting or just cold and windy like it was in 2009,” he says. “In any way, we're going to find a way to create. We're asking artists to kind of have plan A and Plan B.”
Purchin’s aspiration is to have hundreds of professional and amateur artists on the Mall both Sunday and Monday - including anyone who feels motivated right there on the spot. “And we're going to have some extra art supplies with us and we'll have some extra white jumpsuits and orange hats so that any of you who want to just come up and join us, just find us, we'll have them."
Purchin says he and his fellow artists expect to be on the Mall right around 10th Street.
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