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San Diegans invited to express concerns and opinions to President Barack Obama

SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego Museum of Art (SDMA) is celebrating the legacy of Toulouse-Lautrec with its “Summer Salon Series.”

Each Thursday evening through Sept. 2, contemporary artists will be performing and presenting their works of art inside and outside the museum. Attendees can explore the works of living artists, participate in hands-on art making activities, enjoy a cocktail, and view the museum's current exhibitions and collections.

Tomorrow, June 10, SDMA is partnering with San Diego LGBT Pride to help promote artist Sheryl Oring’s “I Wish to Say…” artistic performance.

“Sheryl Oring’s artistic performance fits really well with our mission statement,” said John Bilow, LGBT Pride marketing director. “It’s open to everyone but it’s also an opportunity for our community to be heard and let the president know what issues are important to them.”

Oring will ask guests to take part in her project by dictating a letter to President Barack Obama in her portable office complete with an antique manual typewriter. She will mail the letters to the White House afterward.

San Diego LGBT Pride is encouraging guests to dictate a letter that focuses on a LGBT issue such as Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT).

Bilow tells San Diego Gay & Lesbian News that a lot of people in the community feel the president is spending too much time on DADT and not enough time on marriage equality.

“Get out there, get your voice heard and talk about what is important to you,” Bilow said. “The event goes until 9 p.m. – there is plenty of time.”

“[Oring’s work] is a way to combine art and political commentary,” said Alexander Jarman, public programs manager for SDMA. “Museums are relevant when they can be a good resource to their community. Our salon series is a good way of saying, ‘we are paying attention.’ Especially here in CA where we passed Prop. 8, it is the museum’s way of saying let’s have a conversation about these issues.”

Bilow adds that if one person writes a letter to the president, it may not have an impact, but if 100 or more people write a letter it creates buzz.

“The idea of the salon is really to engage the community in a couple of different ways,” Jarman said.

SDMA looks for local artists and tries to figure out key community partners that will help them promote this vision.

For the “Summer Salon Series” SDMA worked closely with North Park Art Gallery owner David White and with his help made agreements with local artists such as Sheryl Oring.

Sheryl Oring and the “I Wish to Say…” Project

“‘I With to Say’ grew out of my concern that not enough voices were being heard about the state of affairs in this country and my belief in the value of free expression guaranteed under our Constitution,” Orign writes on her website.

Oring, who wears vintage clothing to match the typewriter, began the project in 2004. Since then, she has typed thousands of letters addressed to the president in every state except Alaska and Hawaii.

“People can say anything they want and express their views on any subject,” Oring said.

Oring has typed letters on a variety of issues from immigration to birthday wishes for former President George W. Bush’s 60th birthday. She explains that each year or political term tends to have a few main issues that concern most people.

“In 2008, the war, health care and the economy were the top three subjects,” Oring said. “In 2004, during Bush’s second election I encountered a lot of anger.”

She has learned that the most important things is not to judge people and not have pre-conceived ideas of what they are going to say. You never know what people will say and you have to approach it with an open mind.

“The best part is meet interesting people and hearing really heartfelt responses to certain issues,” Oring said.

Oring staged a performance at the immigration rally held in San Diego on May 1, but for an event such as that one she tries to bring helpers.

“I typed at the NY Pride festival,” Oring said. “And it was one of the longest events ever, it lasted about six or seven hours and I was busy the whole time, but it was a good event.”

In the beginning, Oring would give people the option of mailing the letter themselves, but now she collects all of the letters from each event and mails them together.

“I have written to both the Bush and Obama administrations but not have received a response from either,” she adds with a chuckle. “But I plan on doing this project every four years, indefinitely, as a way to document history, themes and public opinions. There are a lot of places I have yet to type letters in.”

Oring is currently planning for 2011 and 2012 performances.

To learn more about Oring and her artistic work click HERE.

Information about the event is available on SDGLN’s Events Calendar.