The DC Commission on Arts and Humanities opened an exhibition celebrating Funkmaster George Clinton and the District’s relation to the history and legacy of funk. (Ja'Mon Jackson/The Washington Informer)
The DC Commission on Arts and Humanities opened an exhibition celebrating Funkmaster George Clinton and the District’s relation to the history and legacy of funk. (Ja'Mon Jackson/The Washington Informer)

The funk scene has always been a massive part of the D.C. area’s cultural identity, and it is now being celebrated in a unique way. Thanks to the , Washingtonians and visitors can experience an exhibition honoring 82-year-old Funkmaster George Clinton and his legacy. 

“A Toast To The Boogie: Art In The Name of Funk(adelic),” is a curated collection of Parliament-Funkadelic memorabilia and photos and embraces Clinton’s creativity and what he has given to the world. The exhibition is open to the public until Aug. 17 at the Commission’s offices at 200 I Street, S.E.

To kick off the exhibit, a two-day funk worship began on June 25 with Clinton arriving at a press briefing to the sounds of Parliament’s “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker).”

Guests cheered him as he entered the room. Following a welcome and introductions, it was time to be guided through the exhibition. It was Clinton’s first time seeing the finished “show and tell” of his career, and he could not stop smiling.

Co-curated by Zavier Croft, George Clinton’s grandson, this section of the DC Commision on Arts and Humanities exhibit in tribute to the icon highlights an assortment of album covers that accompanied the music of P-Funk. (Ja'Mon Jackson/The Washington Informer)
Co-curated by Zavier Croft, George Clinton’s grandson, this section of the DC Commision on Arts and Humanities exhibit in tribute to the icon highlights an assortment of album covers that accompanied the music of P-Funk. (Ja’Mon Jackson/The Washington Informer)

Tonysha Nelson, Clinton’s granddaughter, grew up with him on and off stage. She provided a brief overview of what was in the exhibition and was recognized as a key liaison between her relatives and the Commission to bring this kickoff event to D.C.

“I’m really excited about today. Some of the pieces you will see are sections of my family’s history and my grandfather’s legacy,” said Nelson. “My mom had a collection of photos from the band on tour that she would carefully organize, showcasing the memories and experiences. It was a visual timeline.”

Creating the George Clinton Legacy Tribute

This tribute to Clinton’s legacy was the brainchild of Melvin Witten, a longtime D.C. resident and friend of the funk star. 

The exhibition at the Commission was preceded by a 50th-anniversary retrospect of  Clinton’s “Cosmic Slop” album held last year at the Eaton Hotel in downtown, D.C. After that, Witten and the star’s family felt there was more to share about the legacy of Clinton and the funk.

This new exhibition was curated by Michelle Day-Curry, curator at the Commission and Zavier Croft, co-curator for the exhibition and Clinton’s grandson. 

In addition to family items on display, many of the pieces on display came from the Commission’s “Call for Art” to identify personal items individuals might want to have considered for the exhibition. 

Day-Curry explained that the exhibition was organized to celebrate the funk aesthetic in D.C. and the funk culture of the District through 2024. A juried panel headed by Kevin Strait from the selected the items that were not from the personal family collections. 

D.C. educator Bevadine Z. Terrell was happy to see photos taken by her late brother Tom Terrell hung in the exhibition. Her brother also wrote the liner notes for the album “Chocolate City,” Parliament’s beloved ode to D.C.

“My brother met George in 1970 at a concert at Morgan State University, and he started following him,” said Terrell about her connection to Clinton. “For [my brother] to be here for this event would have been the ultimate.”

Legacy Lessons for Creatives

The Parliament-Funkadelic lovefest continued on June 26 with a discussion titled “A Toast to the Boogie: Protecting Our Legacy” with Nelson and Clinton’s daughter Gabrielle German, president of “Protecting Our Legacy,” the Parliament Funkadelic star’s foundation. 

Moderated by Derek Ward, a reporter at NBC Washington, the session focused on preparing and retaining one’s creative works. There is a well-known history about how Clinton’s works were sampled, for which he was not paid. The family has worked for many years to change that situation.

The discussion wrapped up with Clinton joining the conversation. He gave the audience what they wanted: wild antics on tour and Clinton weighing in on talent he keeps his eyes on, like hip-hop artists Rakim and Kendrick Lamar. 

Clinton also spoke about how, from the beginning, he admired Motown, its acts and its style. But he had a revelation when the Jackson 5 joined Motown; he felt that was when the Detroit label peaked.

“As soon as Motown peaked, I didn’t have to wear a suit, tie, and a shirt pressed with five other guys,” said Clinton. “I went out there butt naked, and I put my little spaceship right here in D.C. at the Capital Centre.”

For more information on  “A Toast To The Boogie: Art In The Name of Funk(adelic),” go to .

Brenda Siler is an award-winning journalist and public relations strategist. Her communications career began in college as an advertising copywriter, a news reporter, public affairs producer/host and a...

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