Sharon Cheslow (b. 1961), an American musician, artist, and author, is a notable figure in Washington, DC punk rock history, particularly in terms of the scene’s rise in prominence internationally. She has also worked as an instructor, archivist, and librarian. Born in Los Angeles, her family relocated to the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC in 1967. Cheslow was both an eyewitness and participant during the bedrock years of DC punk (late 1970s through early 1990s).
As a musician and singer/songwriter, Cheslow was a member of several groups in DC and California, including Chalk Circle, who hold the distinction in DC punk rock history as the first all-female band. During her DC years, Cheslow also performed extensively with the art-punk band Bloody Mannequin Orchestra. In the early 1990s, she was in Suture, an early Riot Grrrl band that was a side project of Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna. Concurrent to her work as a musician, Cheslow also created the fanzines If This Goes On (with Colin Sears, the drummer in Bloody Mannequin Orchestra and, later, in the highly influential Dag Nasty) and Interrobang?! With Cynthia Connolly and Leslie Clague, she co-authored the first book on the DC punk scene’s history, Banned in DC: Photos and Anecdotes from the DC Punk Underground (79–85) (Washington, DC: Sun Dog Propaganda, 1988).
During the 1980s, Cheslow was a student at UMD and a disc jockey at WMUC, the campus radio station. Eventually, she completed her undergraduate education in interdisciplinary arts at Mills College in Oakland, CA, after relocating to San Francisco in 1990. She undertook graduate work in music at the California Institute for the Arts, and later in 2015 earned a Master of Library and Information Science from San Jose State University. She has lived in Los Angeles since 2005. Since her move to California, Cheslow has been in the bands Red Eye and The Electrolettes, and has composed collaborative experimental/electronic music under the name Coterie Exchange.
While living in the DC metro area, Cheslow amassed a personal collection of original flyers mostly pertaining to DC bands, including her own work. The collection includes 484 punk flyers (393 originals, 91 photocopies) created and collected during 1979 through 1991. Some of the photocopies were produced by Cheslow during her research for Banned in DC.