For Freedoms is an artist-run initiative founded in 2016 by Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman. Our work’s been seen on billboards, posters, in the news and at public events, and it addresses fundamental questions about the link between our culture and our politics. For the 2018 midterm elections, we’re building the largest creative collaboration in the history of the United States by commissioning artists to take over 50 billboards across all 50 states (and beyond), and you’re invited to be help make history with us.
This is just one of 52 Kickstarter campaigns you can help bring to life — 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C. View them all here.
We’ve already begun working with over 200 local partners—ranging from museums, universities, libraries, nonprofit organizations, galleries, and media companies—and 175 artists representing every US state as a part of our 50 state initiative. Check out the massive list here. Your partner in this state is Northern State University, Aberdeen.
While they plan their own billboards, exhibitions and town halls, it’s up to us to ensure these For Freedoms billboards are funded and realized everywhere from Connecticut to Texas—and you can play an important part in this state or others.
These billboards will give artists across the country the platform to address today’s political, cultural, and social issues in their own words, letting them lead essential public conversations in their communities. Our billboard projects will coincide with art exhibitions and artist-led town hall meetings that create new forms of dialogue and engage local perspectives. These billboards are an invitation for you to join the conversation.
Our goal is to empower everyone across these United States to feel welcome in civic conversations. We do not support a political party or push a partisan agenda.
Artists practice free speech every day, and art plays an important role in galvanizing us to meet, talk, and share with our fellow inhabitants of this country. It’s time we come together, raise our concerns, and move towards a more representative form of self-governance.
By giving artists the space and platform to raise their voices and concerns, we’re hoping to show that democracy should be a collaborative process that includes—by design—equal representation and validation of the many identities and voices that make up America. For Freedoms is a generative method of civic empowerment that’s assembling a constellation of creativity and support. We the people are closer to one another than we might think.
Whose voices, and whose futures, are important to you? Who do you want to reconnect with right now? These campaigns offer you the time to reflect on where you, your friends, and your family have come from and where they are now. Many of us living in America identify with more than one state, and with just one $10 reward tier across all projects, we’re hoping you back not only this state but as many as you’d like. Remember where you grew up, or where you went to school, or where you’ve always dreamt of visiting, and bring your love, memories, and history to this state in the comments, during our town halls, and with your family. It’s an opportunity to ensure your voice, and the voices of these artists, are heard on billboards and in town halls across the United States.
For Freedoms was co-founded in 2016 by Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman to make art that encourages and deepens public explorations of freedom in the 21st century. We produce exhibitions, installations, public programs, and billboard campaigns to advocate for inclusive civic participation. Inspired by American artist Norman Rockwell’s paintings of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms (1941)—freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear—our mission is to forge transparent and representative forms of political dialogue. For Freedoms was awarded the 2017 International Center of Photography Infinity Award.
50 State Billboards is our most ambitious project to date, and will be the largest creative collaboration in United States history. Previous For Freedoms projects have included collaborations with artists Carrie Mae Weems, Trevor Paglen, Alec Soth, and Zoë Buckman in places like Cleveland, Flint, Memphis, Tallahassee, Denver, and more.
Hank Willis Thomas is a conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to identity, history, and popular culture. Thomas’ work is in numerous public collections including the Museum of Modern Art New York, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the High Museum of Art, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, among others. His other collaborative projects include Question Bridge: Black Males and In Search Of The Truth (The Truth Booth). Thomas is a recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship (2018), the AIMIA | AGO Photography Prize (2017), the Soros Equality Fellowship (2017), and is a member of the New York City Public Design Commission.
Eric Gottesman is an artist who makes images and social interventions that address themes of nationalism, migration, conflict and structural violence. He is a recipient of a Creative Capital Artist Grant, a Fulbright Fellowship, and an Artadia award. Frequently engaging communities in critical self-expression, Gottesman’s projects have been displayed or collected at the Museum of Modern Art/PS1, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, the Addison Gallery of American Art and elsewhere. Sudden Flowers, his decade-long collaborative project in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia resulted in street installations and a collective monograph. He is an Assistant Professor of Art at SUNY-Purchase College.
Every backer will be listed on the For Freedoms project website as a 50 Billboards Kickstarter Collaborator. Additionally, you’ll receive awesome social media badges to let people know that you were a part of this enormous effort.
- For Freedoms Billboards, 2016: Wyatt Gallery
- DIY Billboard at MFA Boston, 2017: Evan Walsh
- Town Hall Meetings, 2016-18: International Center of Photography, Aperture Foundation, Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, and Museum of Fine Arts Boston
- Eric Gottesman and Hank Willis Thomas: Dustin Aksland
- Exhibition, 2016: Jack Shainman Gallery
Risks and challenges
Coordinating 50+ billboards is no small feat, but we’re up for the challenge. For Freedoms has demonstrated a history of taking on large-scale projects. That’s why we’ve connected with so many local partnering institutions and artists. Now we’re asking you to be a part of making history.
One of the most interesting practical challenges is making sure that our billboards are understood by large media companies as works of art, and not part of any partisan political campaigning. But we’ve worked extensively at this point with companies you’ll no doubt recognize like Lamar Advertising and Outfront Media, and we’re attuned to their rules and regulations. This is where artistic creativity becomes so important. We challenge ourselves to work within a framework and still produce powerful works of public art.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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