Published: Sept. 18, 2016
Sheryl Oring with computer

In support of Theatre & Dance’s opening night performance of 44 Plays for 44 Presidents, the University Libraries, Department of Art & Art History, and Theatre & Dance brings CU Boulder alumna, (’87 Journalism), Sheryl Oring, to perform, “I Wish to Say” on Friday, September 23rd at the Trumbo Fountain.

For the past 12 years artist Sheryl Oring has served as America’s personal secretary, crisscrossing the country with a vintage typewriter and inviting thousands of Americans to sit at her pop-up desk and dictate a message to the next president of the United States. On Friday, September 23rd, 2016 from noon until 2pm, Oring brings her typewriter to CU Boulder's Trumbo Fountain!

Oring uses carbon paper to make two copies: one to send to the White House and one to keep for her ever-growing collection of America’s hopes and dreams, which is now showcased in her new book Activating Democracy: The “I Wish To Say” Project (University of Chicago Press, October 11, 2016). The book, which captures Oring’s travels from New York City’s Bryant Park to a laundromat on the Navajo Nation in Arizona to Los Angeles’ Skid Row, features photographs of Americans of all ages and walks of life alongside images of their manually-typed messages to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (2016), President Barack Obama (2012 and 2008), and President George W. Bush (2004). The book also features essays by historians, artists and scholars on the role that art plays in advancing public discourse, free speech, civic participation, and democracy.

The messages collected by Oring, each hand-stamped with the date and notices like “Urgent” and “Past Due,” provide a powerful and thoughtful antidote to the hurried communication of today’s emails, texts, and Tweets.

“The typewriter serves to slow us down for a moment in time,” writes Oring in the book’s preface. “The simple absence of an ability to delete makes one pause for a moment before committing words to paper. While the project can be playful, it also challenges people to step up, use their voice, and deliver their message with urgency and power.”

In conjunction with the book’s launch and as part of her ongoing project, Oring will perform “I Wish to Say” in several cities between now and Election Day, including New York, Washington, DC, San Francisco, and Raleigh, NC. At each performance, Oring, a former journalist long obsessed by typewriters, dresses the part of a secretary from the 1960s, wearing a red suit with matching fingernails. She sets up a small table with two chairs and a typewriter under the banner “Write a Postcard to the President.”  For the touring schedule, visit

Book details:
Title: Activating Democracy: The “I Wish to Say” Project
Author: Edited by Sheryl Oring
Publication date: October 11, 2016
Publisher: Intellect Books - The University of Chicago Press
Pricing: $38.50
Retail: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

“I Wish to Say” is a project of Creative Capital, and has been made possible in part by grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts; the Franklin Furnace Fund supported by The SHS Foundation, public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and general operating support from the New York State Council on the Arts; the N.C. Arts Council, a division of the Department of cultural Resources; the Puffin Foundation; and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Oring is an Assistant Professor of Art at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Other recent projects include “Travel Desk,” a public art commission at the San Diego International Airport and “Maueramt,” a performance and exhibition done in Berlin on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. She is presently working on a large-scale public art commission at the Tampa International Airport. Oring divides her time between Greensboro, N.C., New York and Berlin.