Program

For Freedoms

The 50 State Initiative

September - December 2018

Gordon Parks x For Freedoms

Gordon Parks x For Freedoms at Photoville, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn, New York, 2018.

Photo by Jessica Bal

Gordon Parks x For Freedoms at Photoville, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn, New York, 2018.

Gordon Parks x For Freedoms at Photoville, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Brooklyn, New York, 2018.

The Gordon Parks Foundation is pleased to contribute to For Freedoms 50 State Initiative, during September through December 2018, to encourage broad participation and to inspire conversation around November’s midterm elections. For Freedoms, was founded in 2016 by artists Eric Gottesman and Hank Willis Thomas, as a participatory platform for civic engagement, discourse, and direct action for artists in the United States.

For Freedoms produces exhibitions, installations, public programs, and billboard campaigns to advocate for inclusive civic participation. Inspired by American artist Norman Rockwell’s paintings of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms (1941)—freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear—For Freedoms Federation uses art to encourage and deepen public explorations of freedom in the 21st century. Building off of the existing artistic infrastructure in the United States, For Freedoms has developed a network of artists and institutional partners who produce nationwide public art installations, exhibitions and local community dialogues in order to inject nuanced, artistic thinking into public discourse. Centered around the vital work of artists, they hope that these exhibitions and related projects will model how arts institutions can become civic forums for action and discussion of values, place, and patriotism.

For Freedoms 50 State Initiative invites artists to use the tools of art and advertising to encourage civic engagement. The Gordon Parks Foundation has joined For Freedoms network of over 300 artists and 200 institutional partners who will produce nationwide public art installations, exhibitions and local community dialogues in order to inject nuanced, artistic thinking into public discourse. For Freedoms believes that if artists’ voices replace advertising across the country, public discourse will become more nuanced. Centered around the vital work of artists, For Freedoms hopes that these exhibitions and related projects will model how arts institutions can become civic forums for action and discussion of values, place, and patriotism.

Gordon Parks’ photograph Untitled, Washington, D.C., 1963, which depicts the activist crowd of Americans at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on the National Mall on August 28, 1963, appears on large-scale billboards in the states of New York and in Wisconsin. Intertwined in the arms of those fighting for social justice is the phrase “I AM YOU,” which was taken from the text Parks wrote to accompany his images of the impoverished Fontenelle family in the photo essay “A Harlem Family,” published in LIFE on March 8, 1968. Since the March on Washington was the largest unified action for human and economic rights that had ever taken place in United States at that time, the imagery resonates perfectly with the 50 States Initiative, which is the largest public art campaign in U.S. history. The billboard in New York was installed at Photoville, an outdoor and accessible photography exhibition and festival in Brooklyn. On display in view of the Brooklyn Bridge, The Gordon Parks Foundation’s contribution to the project was seen by as many as 95,000 visitors who attended the festival.

The Gordon Parks Foundation’s participation in the For Freedoms 50 State Initiative provides meaningful advancement of Gordon Parks’ determination to make the world a better place through advocating values of social justice to a growing and diverse audience. This sort of collaboration and support, in distinctive venues such as public art platforms, is an excellent example of activities in which the Foundation will continue to engage in the future.