November 19, 2018

Signs of Freedom

Collective display of art revealed what’s on our minds
by Tracy Sweet

What is your definition of freedom? More than 800 handwritten signs answering that question dotted the lawn of the Addison Gallery of American Art this fall. This collective display of personal expression put Phillips Academy among places like Miami, FL, and Brooklyn, NY, in the country’s largest display of public art

Entitled “For Freedoms,” the 50-state, nonpartisan civic engagement project aimed to deepen respectful public discourse on civic issues and core values. The project takes its name from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms (1941)—freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear—and the works painted by Norman Rockwell in 1943 that illustrated these ideals. For Freedoms was founded by Andover alumnus Eric Gottesman ’94 and fellow artist Hank Willis Thomas.  

Spearheaded at Andover by the Addison Gallery, the project inspired the campus community, alumni/ae, public school groups, and Addison visitors to express themselves in thoughtful, artful, and sometimes provocative language. Judith F. Dolkart, the Mary Stripp & R. Crosby Kemper Director of the Addison, was grateful for the outpouring of personal expression in all forms, from patriotism and political viewpoints to hope, even frustration.  

Popular themes included: Freedom to Love, Freedom to Be Me, Freedom from Stereotypes, Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Choice, Freedom to Cry, Freedom to Fail. Some made political statements: Freedom to Bear Arms, Freedom from The Wall, Freedom of Movement.  

“This is an incredibly empowering project, giving voice to all,” said Dolkart. “At the Addison, we really found ourselves intrigued by the intentions of the For Freedoms project, and the lawn signs proved an interesting way to involve the community in a process of thinking about principles that they find important for a vibrant community and democracy. I was pleased to see the word ‘love’ appear throughout; I also see the signs as a community survey of sorts, revealing the kinds of things that people are thinking.”   

Categories: Arts

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