Largest Public-Art Campaign in US History Set to Come to St. Louis

The arts organization For Freedoms launched a billboard campaign during the 2016 presidential election in which they invited artists such as Carrie Mae Weems, Zoe Buckman and others to mount their work on billboards in United States cities. Included were cities such as Columbus, Ohio; Flint, Michigan; and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where artists offered up satirical works that offered nuance to the frenzy surrounding the year’s sociopolitical climate.

Now, For Freedoms is embarking on an even larger campaign leading up to the 2018 midterm elections. Titled the “50 State Initiative”, the organization has set an ambitious goal of working with arts and cultural institutions along with several artists in 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington D.C., to mount 50 billboards of artworks. The goal of the billboards is to provide artists with a platform to encourage discourse on civic issues among arts and cultural institutions and residents of the states.

In June, For Freedoms launched Kickstarter campaigns for each state set to be included in the project. Missouri has exceeded its goal of $3,000, raising $3,351 that will help fund two billboards designed by artists Hank Willis Thomas and Derrick Adams. For Freedoms has also partnered with Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, Kranzberg Arts Foundation and projects+gallery, of which the latter two are working in collaboration with independent curator Modou Dieng.

Each state will also organize its own exhibitions, installations, town halls and programming to coincide with the campaign. In St. Louis, Modou Dieng will open his curated exhibition “Cry for Victory and Short Walk to Freedom” in October at projects+gallery, featuring local and national artists such as Jen Everett, Shabez Jamal, Kennedy Yanko and several others.

For Freedoms was founded by artists Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman in an effort to use art as vehicle for social change. The “50 State Initiative” is set to be the largest public-art campaign in U.S. history. The billboards will be on view from September through December.

Artwork by Carrie Mae Weems courtesy of For Freedoms.

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