Your Freedoms

Are you ready? For all the advertising? Because it’s coming. Billboards, yard signs, town halls… all of it aimed straight at winning your vote in the midterm elections. But what if they weren’t all just the same ol’ wavy stripes and bad wordplay based on candidates’ names?

For its latest initiative, the organization For Freedoms is fundraising, putting together resources, and partnering with other organizations to encourage political participation through art. The group’s call for civic action is intended to reach all 50 states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico before November’s elections. This creative collaboration is intended to inspire dialogue, debate, and increased civic participation around issues rather than candidates.

Make Your Voice Seen

This year’s 50 State Initiative is being (literally) kickstarted with a series of 52 artist-created billboards. Building the largest creative collaboration in the US, they’re fundraising to commission artists to take over billboards across the country.

But why billboards? Because eyeballs. Much as we may not want to admit it, more people will see a billboard than engage with an art exhibition. And co-opting mass media is just a thing we do! From the Guerilla Girls to the Oscar-nominated Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, we know billboards are a sure-fire way to get attention.

“In the For Freedoms 50 State Initiative in September–November 2018, concurrent decentralized art exhibitions and public events across the country will encourage broad participation in civic discourse and, through lifting up a multiplicity of voices, will spark a national dialogue about art, education, advertising and politics.”

Where Do I Start?

They’ve also compiled a toolkit to help community leaders and artists build their own local initiatives, from town halls to exhibitions and even lawn signs of their own. The organization can provide a fundraising guide, help with PR strategy, and curriculum ideas for teaching your exhibits. Templates for lawn signs are available along with recommendations for hosting a lawn sign event.

For Freedoms has also gathered hundreds of local partners, including museums, galleries, universities, and more. These partners have joined with For Freedoms to collaborate on free public programming.

For example, Kansas City’s Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art will host a town hall on immigration in August. The Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland held a town hall on how religion and art can help bring solutions to America’s prison system in May, and a town hall on freedom of expression is scheduled for July. A town hall on the Restorative Schools Issue Campaign will be hosted by the Delaware Art Museum in September.

Once again, this isn’t just a thing for the so-called “coastal elites”… it’s happening everywhere.

For Freedoms, For You

Founded in 2016 as “the first artist-run super PAC,”  For Freedoms is an organization that seeks to merge art, activism, politics, and education. Its name was inspired by Norman Rockwell’s famous paintings based on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

The 50 State Initiative, however, is funded separately from the super PAC. Kickstarters are already running for 52 artist-created billboards, and three are already fully funded. To pledge your support, simply find your favorite state (or states) here and donate by July 3.

Not a billboard-scale sort of artist? Check out For Freedoms’ toolkit for inspiration and guidance on how you be a part of this initiative in your own community. Join their network of artists, partners, institutional collaborators, and sponsors. Make a connection with friends and organizations you think should be involved.

They’re your freedoms. Hang onto ’em.

Beth Voigt

Beth is a graphic designer in Chicago, a superhero in her own mind, and absolutely nothing on TV. She wrangles fonts professionally, pummels code amateurishly, and has been known to shove fire in her face for fun. Fond of volunteering, late-night bursts of productivity, and making snacks, she dislikes grocery shopping and sticky public transit and is only on her second smartphone. Her opinion is that you should try everything twice; if you don't like it, you were probably doing it wrong the first time around. If external links are your thing, here are links to Twitter and Instagram, and you can support her ongoing weirdness by buying her a coffee or six.

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