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Tania Bruguera, Marilyn Minter, Trevor Paglen to Create Political Billboards Ahead of US Midterms

Hank Willis Thomas’s For Freedoms platform hopes to foster civic engagement with the ‘largest creative collaboration in US history’

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Courtesy: For Freedoms

Courtesy: For Freedoms

For Freedoms, a non-profit political arts platform for creative civic engagement founded in 2016 by artists Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman, has begun the ‘largest creative collaboration in US history’ with its 50 State Initiative. The project aims to use artistic interventions to foster political conversations in the run-up to the US’s midterm elections on 6 November.

So far, 300 artists have joined For Freedoms including Trevor Paglen, Rashid Johnson, Tania Bruguera and Theaster Gates. They have designed billboards that will be erected in each of America’s 50 states ahead of election day. The ambitious project has been made possible through partnerships with more than 200 organisations including major museums, international groups and grassroots art centres.

According to the organization’s political advisor, Mark Skidmore, the project has tried ‘to match the artist’s vision and message to location and issue.’ Four states, Alaska, Hawaii, Maine and Vermont do not allow billboards, but For Freedoms is trying to find a way around this by installing banners instead.

The artist-run project isn’t affiliated with either political party, claiming to be ‘anti-partisan’, but the hope is that it will successfully engage those who feel excluded from traditional political processes. ‘There were no guidelines as the basis of this project is embracing artists’s creativity as a means of inspiring civic dialogue and participation – it’s about what they had to say,’ Gottesman said.

Inspired by Norman Rockwell’s 1943 painting series ‘Four Freedoms’ (referencing Franklin D. Roosevelt’s landmark 1941 State of the Union address), the organization launched individual Kickstarter campaigns in June for each billboard, raising USD$3,000 or more to bring each of them to life. Click here to see the artists and locations for each of the 50 billboards.

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