Campaign for Creative Dignity: Demand justice for LGBTQIA artist of color

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In 2016, DC artist Lisa Marie Thalhammer approached fellow artist Aja to "collaborate" on an application for the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities' Public Art Building Community grant. Over a year later, after countless hours of negotiation and fighting for justice, Thalhammer stole the original design created and hasn't paid the co-creator, Aja, let alone given credit for the design that won her the $50,000 grant. The mural has been painted on the Open Arms women's shelter at 57 O Street NW, Washington, D.C.

We ask for your signature so that Aja can receive payment and credit for designing the mural, so that grantor DCCAH and grantee Lisa Marie Thalhammer can be held accountable for exploiting this community of women of color, and ultimately so that we can keep fighting for the creative dignity of all artists.

To learn more about this campaign, connect with others, and to reach the artist directly, visit our webpage.


To Whom It May Concern at the DC Commission for the Arts and Humanities,

As a supporter of public art in DC, I am appalled at your recent decision to ignore the case of Aja Adams, an artist in the DC community. You refused to thoroughly investigate the case to ensure payment and credit to the artist, Aja Adams, who designed the piece painted on the Open Arms building at 57 O Street NW by Lisa Marie Thalhammer. Instead, you allowed the grantee to use the $50,000 grant for personal gain.

As a taxpaying U.S. resident, I refuse to see my hard-earned dollars going to the pockets of Lisa Marie Thalhammer, who stole the work of Aja Adams, an LGBTQ artist of color residing in Northeast DC. If you really stood by the “Public Art Building Community” grant name, you as the grantor would do everything in your power to ensure the artist receives full payment for the design and credit for their work on the Open Arms wall at 57 O Street NW. Additionally, I expect you as a Commission see to it that the grant is used to benefit the women of color at the shelter, as was promised in the proposal. Thus far, it is clear that the Commission has favored the lies put forth by the grantee, without listening to the community. We are writing to put an end to this pattern of exploitation of communities of color by white artists under the guise of charity and community development.

If the artist Aja Adams is not paid or given credit, I demand that the work on the wall at 57 O Street NW, Washington, DC be taken down as it is violating the rights of the artist, Aja.
I am writing to you as part of a movement, and we are fighting for justice and artistic dignity. We are appealing to you not just for this case, but so that all artists of color who create works funded by the DCCAH and any other body can receive the same space, credit, payment, opportunities, and respect as the artists who take the work.


Concerned community member