We are advocates for creative citizenship. We are a collective of artists, arts institutions, and active citizens who experiment with and produce new forms of civic action. Though we were founded by artists Eric Gottesman and Hank Willis Thomas, we are multitudes.
We champion creativity as an essential American value. We welcome all to participate. We encourage dialogue across partisan lines and we fundamentally challenge partisanship itself. With our partners, we are exploring the role of arts institutions and artists in connecting with and mobilizing their local communities.
It is relevant to all Americans of voting age or not. More specifically, it is for anyone who has felt or been left out of—or let down by—the political process. We welcome all.
Geographically, we are across the entire country, because that is where political and civic discourse happens every day. Different projects will have different geographical presence. For example, The 50 State Initiative is happening in all 50 states, DC, and Puerto Rico ahead of 2018 midterm elections. Philosophically and politically, we live in the gray areas when other people may see black or white. We are anti-partisan.
Hopefully, it solves many. One major problem we confront is the binary nature of arguments on political issues. We are not for or against. We are for everything in between. We are also trying to solve for the problem of exclusion and exclusivity. We are welcoming, inclusive, and open to all. And we believe everyone should have an equal seat at the table. We believe art is a civic catalyst.
It is our largest project to date and has been called the largest creative collaboration in American history. Leading up to November 6th, 2018, we will be conducting four types of activations in all 50 states plus DC and Puerto Rico—and infuse divergent, artistic thinking processes into—exhibitions, lawn signs, town hall talks, and billboards. Billboards: artist-created public art billboards will appear in all 50 states, DC and Puerto Rico. Publcily visible on a national scale, they will start conversations about the political system and climate on a national scale. These artists and art pieces will model how Americans can use creativity to spur public discourse. Town Halls: These participatory events, often led by artists, are conducted either by For Freedoms or our Partners around the country. We aim to deepen discussion, civic discourse, and participation at a local and community level as catalyzed by art, artists, and artistic thinking. Exhibitions: More than 200 arts-based institutions—including galleries, universities, nonprofits, collectives, and foundations—have partnered with us to conduct their own activations based on our principles of creativity as a civic right, participation as a civic duty, and deeper discourse as a catalyst of civic change. Lawn Signs: At community activations, partner exhibitions, and at town halls, there will be yard signs—a trope of political campaigns—that citizens can fill out and bring home with them; they are based on the FDR’s original Four Freedoms and say, “Freedom of _____,” “Freedom to _____,” “Freedom for_____,” and Freedom from _______.” These fill-in-the-blank DIY lawn signs are one of countless ways to creatively participate in civic life and politics.
An arts institution—museum, gallery, nonprofit, etc.—that has expressed interest in partnering with us to conduct their own activation based on our pillars of inclusion, dialogue, and creativity as civic progress. Currently we have over 200 institutional partners for the fall 2018 50 State Initiative.
It means confronting political, societal, or economic issues in order to begin a conversation, debate, or discussion. It also aims to take conversations beyond the status quo of binary—for/against, pro/con, love/hate, black/white—and accommodate all the shades of the gray areas in between.
Whereas there are myriad ways to use creativity to participate in civic and political dialogue, For Freedoms has created a Creative Citizenship list (forthcoming) that comprises a few examples of how to actively participate. Actions could be as direct and familiar as running for local office and voting and as oblique as hosting a potluck dinner to following someone you disagree with on social media.