The Observer Talks to Leon Reid IV, Brooklyn Artist Behind Proposed “Tourist in Chief”

Leon Reid IV's Proposal for "Tourist in Chief"

Leon Reid IV is a man on a mission. A mission to decorate the George Washington statue in Washington Square Park.

Mr. Reid has been petitioning to stage one of his “statue adornment” installations, starring the Union Square equestrian bronze, for the Art in Odd Places festival this fall. But don’t expect to see a tricorn hat or American flag on this version of old George: Mr. Reid’s hopes to transform the first president into a tourist, complete with an I ♥ NY hat, a camera, and a giant map. Funny, right?

Not everyone thinks so. Mr. Reid has jumped through a whole host of hoops trying to get his project approved by various city authorities.

Last night, however, Mr. Reid cleared a major hurdle in the bureaucratic process. Appearing before the Community Board yesterday evening clad in the requisite Brooklyn bowtie, Mr. Reid presented his case and showed the board some of his previous projects (including an Abe Lincoln statue with a do-rag, Yankees hat and necklace in the shape of Africa). The community board voted unanimously in favor of the project. An hour before Mr. Reid’s presentation, however, the Parks department called the Community Board and implored them to reject the plan.

Mr. Reid says he doesn’t know why the city park authorities would take such a strong stand against an innocent art installation, which, for the record, is only slated to adorn the George Washington statue for thirteen hours on a single day. “I have no idea,” Mr. Reid told The Observer when asked why the parks department seemed to have it out for him.

He claims that, having submitted his application and $25 fee to the parks department, he is still awaiting an official response. “They owe me a written response,” he said. Mr. Reid emphasized that his work was based around public property, and that the parks department could not reject his project based on their personal artistic sensibilities. “They don’t have the luxury to deny an application based on that,” he added.

Mr. Reid hopes that his project can be both amusing and informative. An information kiosk explaining both George Washington’s historical presence in New York and the art installation its self would be positioned next to the statue. “I don’t think it’s a crime to inform people about George Washington,” Mr. Reid said flatly.

Meanwhile, Mr. Reid is calling the parks department out on what he says is clear cut hypocrisy. Last year, NBC attempted to promote “The Cape” by draping several city statues (with the Park department’s blessing) in black drapes. NBC made a contribution to the parks department, thanking them for the partnership. Too bad the show tanked.

  The Observer Talks to Leon Reid IV, Brooklyn Artist Behind Proposed “Tourist in Chief”