UMOCA Partners with Artist Collective For Freedoms to Spark Civic Joy and Participation Through Visual Art

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Hank Willis Thomas, Justice, 2021, Mixed media including U.S. flags, 39 1/2 x 71 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches (100.3 x 181.6 x 6.4 centimeters)

Opening January 21, 2022, the exhibition Our Wake Up Call For Freedoms, a collaboration between the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (umoca) and the For Freedoms artist collective, examines creativity as a core societal value capable of creating political change. Timed to coincide with the 2022 Utah Legislative Session, this participative exhibition invites visitors to create yard signs, posters, and other visual materials typically associated with political campaigns and movements. Through this process, visitors are encouraged to consider the potential of creativity in the conception of radical, imaginative, and visionary solutions to social issues and identify how art can augment political problem-solving, which tends toward reactionary, zero-sum solutions.  

Founded in 2016 by artists and cultural producers Hank Willis Thomas, Eric Gottesman, Michelle Woo, and Wyatt Gallery, For Freedoms aims to center artists’ voices in public discourse, broaden what participation in democracy looks like, and initiate deeper conversations about the ways in which art can encourage civic engagement. The exhibition, designed by the umoca curatorial team in collaboration with For Freedoms, features a wide range of works by the collective, including yard signs, billboard reproductions, installations, and other artist activations, such as a Meditative Disco in which visitors are invited to follow along with guided meditation playlists on Soundcloud; a Creative Library, organized in partnership with the Salt Lake City Public Library, that features a curated selection of books on relevant social issues; and an installation of posters by Seattle-based deisgn lab, Amplifier, that allows visitors to print any of the included posters for free in the gallery.

In just five years, the For Freedoms network has grown to become the largest community of creative civic engagement in the United States, including thousands of artists and organizations working together to invite radical imagination and set the table for new national conversations. For Freedoms has achieved this reach by partnering with institutions like umoca, whose gallery spaces and exhibitions are ideal vehicles for engendering public discourse and civic engagement through art and community programming. With this in mind, umoca has organized programs around the Our Wake Up Call For Freedoms exhibition that further explore the intersection of creativity and politics, including film screenings presented in partnership with the Utah Film Center, panel discussions, and artist talks.

Aaron Huey, Why Do You Ask for a Sign?, Billboard Design for For Freedoms, photographic print on Sintra, © Aaron Huey / For Freedoms

This exhibition is made possible by generous support from Visit Salt Lake; Bonnie and Lee Kirkpatrick; Utah Division of State History; Sam & Diane Stewart Family Foundation; Salt Lake County Zoo, Arts, & Parks (ZAP); and Kayne Griffin Gallery.