Mica has been a Florida House ambassador for three years, and she confirmed Gilman’s recollection of the timing of the arrival of the weird thing.
“We were kind of scared when we first saw it,” she said.
Undeterred, she investigated. Call the D.C. arts commission, she suggested with a knowing smile.
“Oh, yes, yes, yes,” said Marquis Perkins of the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities when the weird thing was described to him.
The arts commission has a history of adding dollops of pizazz to the city. It spread 100 donkey and elephant sculptures around town back in 2002, when people still found partisan politics amusing. Two years later it did the same thing with 150 colorful panda sculptures.
Perkins put Mary Beth Brown, a public art coordinator for the commission, on the phone.
Thereafter, the weird thing became known as “the vending device.”
“The vending device contains prints on how to build your own Supreme Court out of cardboard,” Brown said, revealing a purpose that none of the passersby had come even remotely close to guessing.
Four cardboard models of the building, each about five by seven feet, were built by students of the Corcoran College of Art under the tutelage of well-known design artist Wolfgang Weileder.
They were put on display around
town starting on March 20. It didn’t rain a heck of a lot in the next two weeks — a little more than half an inch — but that was enough. Cardboard gets a little droopy when wet.
The fourth one was coated in lacquer and placed outside the D.C. Jewish Community Center on 16th Street NW on April 3.
“It’s looking pretty good, so hopefully the weather holds up,” Brown said.
Brown was dismayed to learn that the weird-thing vending device had been empty for a while.
“Oh no, when did you go?” she asked. “I’m actually going to drive by this afternoon and stick more of the prints in there. I’m sorry you didn’t get one.”