Largest Public Art Campaign in U.S. History Will Place Billboards in MO

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click to enlarge For Freedoms paid for this billboard in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in 2016. - COURTESY OF FOR FREEDOMS
For Freedoms paid for this billboard in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in 2016.

A campaign to bring artist-designed billboards to all 50 states in the U.S., plus D.C. and Puerto Rico, is launching this morning — with billboards slated to pop up locally in September.

The billboards, which call for cultural and civic action, are sponsored by the artist-run political action committee For Freedoms, which was founded by artists Eric Gottesman and Hank Willis Thomas in 2016. Its local partner, the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, is one of 200 such partners across the U.S.

To pay for the billboards, For Freedoms is today launching 52 different Kickstarters. You can check out Missouri's via this link.

"This campaign marks the largest creative collaboration in United States history — making art accessible to communities around the country," Patton Hindle, Kickstarter’s director of arts, says in a press release. “For Freedoms and Kickstarter both believe that art is a necessity in any productive democracy.”

The organizers have yet to reveal billboard locations or which specific artists will be involved at each location. However, they've signed on an impressive roster of artists, including Sanford Biggers, Tania Bruguera, Zoë Buckman, Sam Durant, Theaster Gates, Rashid Johnson, Marilyn Minter, Richard Misrach, Trevor Paglen, Dread Scott, Xaviera Simmons, Nari Ward, and Carrie Mae Weems.

click to enlarge A 2016 billboard in Denver. - COURTESY OF FOR FREEDOMS
A 2016 billboard in Denver.

"These billboards — each coupled with politically engaged exhibitions and town hall meetings organized by local partner organizations — will encourage and cultivate conversations on issues both local and national, empowering artists and arts institutions to be community leaders in civic engagement," the committee explains in a statement. "They'll be on display from September leading up to the midterm elections, and will remain on view through December."

A previous project in 2016 placed billboards in Denver, Memphis, Miami, Tallahassee, Lexington, New Orleans, Flint, Michigan; Pearl, Mississippi; Columbus, Ohio; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Many of the messages in 2016 took on candidate Donald Trump, albeit without actually mentioning his name. In addition to the "Grab 'Em by the Ballots" billboard in Pennsylvania depicted above, for example, a billboard in Mississippi proclaimed, "Make America Great Again" — only instead of depicting a MAGA hat, the artist imposed the slogan over a black-and-white photograph of police turning on protesters in Selma.

click to enlarge Largest Public Art Campaign in U.S. History Will Place Billboards in MO
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About The Author

Sarah Fenske

Sarah Fenske is the executive editor of Euclid Media Group, overseeing publications in eight cities. She is the former host of St. Louis on the Air and was previously editor-in-chief of the RFT and the LA Weekly. She lives in St. Louis.
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