US artists and museums join forces to fire up voters

Sign of the times: a university campus event organised by the For Freedoms group to engage young voters Photo: USF Contemporary Art Musuem, Courtesy of For Freedoms Congress

Artists and activists will gather in Los Angeles later this month for the first For Freedoms Congress, a three-day event featuring discussions, performances and workshops to spur voter engagement. “The aim is for us to recognise that if we want to address entrenched problems, we have to have creative solutions,” says the artist and organiser Hank Willis Thomas.

To this end, For Freedoms has partnered with the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA), the Japanese American National Museum and the Hammer Museum, and enlisted artists including Glenn Kaino, Rafa Esparza and Cassils, among others, to lead events.

“Hank is ambitious,” says Amanda Hunt, MoCAs director of education and senior curator of programmes. “Were getting ready for an epic battle—the stakes are really high. Its about power in numbers, and bringing together all kinds of thinkers across disciplines.”

For Freedoms was founded in 2016 by Thomas and fellow artist Eric Gottesman as a civic platform that combines “art, politics, commerce and education”. It takes its name from Franklin D. Roosevelts Four Freedoms address—in which the US president spoke of the universal rights to freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear—which were famously illustrated in a series of paintings by Norman Rockwell in 1943. The groups 50 State Initiative, launched in 2018 and described as the largest public art project in the US, has resulted in 52 artist-designed billboards installed across the country.

With the For Freedoms Congress, Gottesman notes that they are tapping into a larger movement of artists engaging with contemporary issues, including the Black Artists Retreat, started by Theaster Gates and Eliza Myrie in Chicago and coming to New York for the first time this October, and Vision & Justice, a two-day conference in April conceived by the Harvard art historian Sarah Lewis. “Were building on that legacy in which artists have come together to shape the future,” Gottesman says.

There is a lot of anxiety and fear being peddled as the election approaches Eric Gottesman, artist and activist

One participating artist whose practice integrates art and activism is Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement. She will be leading an event at MoCA Geffen Contemporary related to a forthcoming ballot measure that pushes for greater accountability for law enforcement, and advocates for alternatives to incarceration for those with mental illness. For Cullors, the issue is personal as well as political. “My brother has a developmental disorder and has been criminalised for it his entire life,” she says.

She will also be holding a barbecue at the Crenshaw Dairy Mart, a new art space in the citys Inglewood district that Cullors founded with Noé Olivas and other classmates from her recent University of Southern California (USC) MFA programme.

For her contribution, the artist and technologist Amelia Winger-Bearskin will lead a workshop on writing “songs of protest, that create the identity of the country and state that we want to live in,” she says. “Im Native American and we have lots of songs we sing as part of governance and the decision-making process. Lifting our voice in public space is practice for lifting our voice in government.”

Winger-Bearskin will also be creating a low-sensory environment, like a chill-out room, with a playlist offering a “guided space to think about the congress,” she says. “Its introspective, but also a funny, satirical apRead More – Source