- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 9, 2015

It is no small feat to combine art with patriotism and historic sensibility in an office setting not three blocks from the White House, but that is exactly what the Federalist Society has done.

To mark a move to new offices at 1776 I St. in the nation’s capital, the 40,000-member organization has assembled 27 pieces of art to remind one and all of their calling: to keep the legal community focused on the U.S. Constitution and limited government, primarily through spirited public debate.

“The founding of our republic resulted in principles that can be embraced by all Americans, and artwork that excites people about those timeless and universal ideals hopefully will help contribute to an atmosphere of civility and thoughtfulness to our political discourse,” said Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the group.

“We wanted to do something historically relevant that inspires and intrigues through modern design and technique. The idea being that when you come to our offices you get the full effect of what the Federalist Society is all about — strong dedication to our founding principles, our Constitution and the many great and courageous leaders who made America possible in a way that captivates young and old alike,” Mr. Leo added. “We wanted to bring artistic enterprise to tell the story of America.”

There is much enterprise here. A painstaking replica of the Constitution itself sandblasted on a half-inch glass panel is an important and striking centerpiece. Produced with the help of two glass artists and a National Geographic Society technician, the five-foot-tall work preserves the original handwriting and the all-important signatures from the document.

Other works include prints that borrow from Andy Warhol’s 1960s-era technique of repeated images and brilliant colors. The portraits, however, include Lady Justice, James Madison, Ronald Reagan, Robert Bork and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, among others. In addition, finely detailed photographs zero in on assorted icons of the founding era — from George Washington’s desk to notable statuary, the Supreme Court and the Old Senate Chamber in the U.S. Capitol.

“What the Federalist Society has done with this gallery is to tell the story of the American founding in a way not seen before, both through the art itself and [through] the narratives the organization has chosen to describe each photograph,” said Daniel Mahdavian, the photographer and designer behind these works, which are hung throughout the Society’s new digs.

“What is most exciting is the way the Federalist Society presents the story of America. That’s what’s really important,” added Mr. Mahdavian, who spent a year completing the works and garnering proper permissions from historic site curators.

This striking collection is worthy of celebration, however. The Federalist Society has invited 150 persons of note to toast the new gallery on Wednesday evening — a guest list that includes George Will, Elaine Chao and C. Boyden Gray. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia enjoyed a private tour of his own ahead of time.

The august group will toast the art with champagne, then proceed to the top of the building for a rooftop cocktail party with sunset views only Washington can provide. Among the elegant dainties, according to provider of the fare, The Caterering Company founder Elizabeth Petty: poached oysters with mango habanero salsa; miniature lobster rolls with Danish butter and fennel slaw; lamb carpaccio with roasted tomato pistou and shallots; plus caramelized apricot accompanied by red wine and candied almonds.

The Founding Fathers would love it.

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