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Hank Willis Thomas, 50 State Initiative, For Freedoms
Hank Willis Thomas, 50 State Initiative, For Freedoms

For Freedoms: the Jenny Holzer-backed project turning art into action

More than 300 creative voices will come together to help empower local communities in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election

Founded in 2016 by Hank Willis Thomas and Eric GottesmanFor Freedoms is an artist-run collective fostering civic engagement, discourse, and direct action for artists in the United States. Starting today and running across the weekend, more than 300 creative voices will come together in Los Angeles for a three-day congress aimed at the development of tools, ideas, and plans to empower local communities in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election.

Hosted in partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Hammer Museum, the Sundance Institute, and the Japanese American National Museum, For Freedoms Congress (FFCon) will see attendees participate in a series of artist-led planning sessions, artistic workshops, and public events meant to boost the creative infrastructure of the country and spark political action. 

The event is the first-of-its-kind convening of artists, academics, cultural institutions, and social justice organisations, marking a historic moment for the political activism of the international artistic community. FFCOn’s programming involves both professionals and the wider Los Angeles audience: existing For Freedoms ‘delegates’ who have previously engaged with the platform mission will join closed in-depth sessions, while residents will be welcome at the numerous open-to-the-public ‘town-hall’ sessions scheduled throughout the weekend.

“Nothing could be more important this year than to help citizens find their voices” – Eric Gottesman, co-founder For Freedoms

“With the Los Angeles event, our goal is to find new and stimulating ways to empower our fellow citizens to use their voices to express their views and ideas,” said For Freedoms co-founder Eric Gottesman. “Nothing could be more important this year than to help citizens find their voices. Our partners in every state will be taking this message of engagement back to their communities because of the work and creative energy we produce at FFCon.”

Many of the For Freedoms ‘delegates’ invited to attend the planning sessions are creatives who took part in For Freedoms’ 50 State Initiative, a public art demonstration that saw 150 artists design political-themed billboards to put up across every US state, as well as Puerto Rico. Including Marilyn Minter, Rashid Johnson, Guerrilla Girls, Jenny Holzer, Mickalene Thomas, and Theaster Gates, the project aimed to inspire people to discover new ways of engaging in civic life broadening the concept of democratic participation.

Continuing the 50 State Initiative’s momentum, FFCon won’t seek to push a specific agenda and instead, aim to promote political discussions and forge the civic engagement of US citizens. Using art as a vehicle for participation, For Freedom wants creatives to have a stake in the political debate and contribute to shaping the future of national politics. 

“The people who make up our country’s creative fabric have the collective influence to effect change,” said For Freedoms co-founder Hank Willis Thomas. “Right now, we have a lot of non-creative people shaping public policy, and a lot of creative individuals who haven't or don’t know how to step up. For Freedoms exists as an access point to magnify, strengthen, and perpetuate the civic influence of creatives and institutions nationwide. With FFCon, we thought, ‘what would happen if we brought them all together?’ The structure of the event embraces diverse creative processes, but it establishes a clear framework for attendees to start effecting change the moment they get home.”

FFCon will take place February 28, February 29, and March 1 in Los Angeles. Host venues include the Hammer Museum, the Japanese American National Museum, and the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. See more information here