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Arapaho proverb billboard, the 50 State Initiative
Arapaho proverb billboard, in collaboration with Colorado College for the 50 State InitiativeCourtesy Instagram/@forfreedoms

Art collective For Freedoms launches billboards for Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Guerrilla Girls, Shepard Fairey, and more have created designs for the artist-activist group co-founded by Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman

To coincide with Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Monday (October 12), For Freedoms, the art and activist group founded by Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman, will line roads in all 50 US states – alongside Puerto Rico, Guam, Samoa, and the US Virgin Islands – with some of its signature political billboards.

Designed by more than 70 artists, including Guerrilla Girls, Shepard Fairey, Maggie Rogers, and more, the billboards are part of the group’s ongoing “2020 Awakening” campaign inspired by the Wide Awakes, a grassroots abolition group from the 1860s.

“Part of the thesis of For Freedoms is that history isn’t made alone,” Thomas told Dazed earlier this year, speaking about the first For Freedoms Congress, which brought together artists including Guerrilla Girls, Jenny Holzer, Marilyn Minter, Rashid Johnson, Mickalene Thomas, and Theaster Gates. “It’s through our collective work, collaboration, mutual respect, and openness that we can make the impact on the world and society that we want.”

Many of these artists also took part in For Freedoms’ 2018 billboard campaign, the 50 State Initiative, which was the largest public art campaign in American history, with thousands of billboards and signs going up across the US.

Since then, billboards have also been used by artists including Holzer, Carrie Mae Weems, and Christine Sun Kim to raise awareness during the coronavirus pandemic and urge people to vote in the 2020 election.

In June, meanwhile, Hank Willis Thomas staged another guerrilla artwork in collaboration with the anti-incarceration think tank Incarceration Nations Network. Part of an ongoing series titled The Writing on the Wall, the artwork saw statements made by incarcerated people projected onto the US Department of Justice building in Washington, to highlight the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on prisoners.

For more information on For Freedoms, read the collective’s online art bookInfinite Playbook, which outlines its short-term and long-term goals, and lists ways to get involved.