Press Release


Louisville, KY
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A month ahead of the midterm elections on November 6, 2018, 21c Museum Hotel, in partnership with For Freedoms Federation’s 50 State Initiative, will have unveiled ten artist-designed billboards in ten locations across the U.S. Founded by Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman, For Freedoms provides a non-partisan platform for civic engagement, discourse, and direct action for artists in the United States by producing exhibitions, town hall meetings, billboards, and public art. As an institutional partner, 21c will present 12 commissioned billboards by artists Titus Kaphar, Jeremy Dean, Derrick Adams, Paula Crown, Hank Willis Thomas, Zoë Buckman, Stacey Kirby, Emily Momohara, Justin Brice Guariglia, and Ebony G. Patterson, that will be installed as public art installations in highly visible locations across the country in 10 cities, including: Bentonville, AR; Chicago, IL; Cincinnati, OH; Durham, NC; Lexington, KY; Louisville, KY; Kansas City, MO; Nashville, TN; Miami, FL, and Oklahoma City, OK. With a national scope, 21c and For Freedoms seeks to use artistic voices to spur community dialogues that bring critical thinking about the current political climate into public discourse.

“21c and For Freedoms share a belief in the power of art to connect communities, start conversations, and inspire change,” said Chief Curator and Museum Director Alice Gray Stites. “The opportunity to participate in the 50 State Initiative provides an exciting platform to integrate the work of some of today’s most dynamic artists into public spaces in all 10 cities across the United States that 21c calls home today and in the near future.”

The 50 State Initiative was launched in 2018 as a non-partisan, nationwide campaign to use art as a means of inspiring broad civic participation. In the lead-up to the midterm elections this November – artists and institutions across the 50 states are designing and commissioning billboards, town halls, lawn signs, and exhibitions, transforming artistic spaces into civic forums for action and discussion of values, place, and patriotism. Along with 21c, close to 200 art museums, universities, and cultural centers serve as participating partners, including Baltimore Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, Cincinnati Art Museum, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, Minneapolis Institute of Art, New Museum, and Perez Art Museum, among others.

Additional information on 21c projects in collaboration with For Freedoms follows below:

Inaction is Apathy Collusion is Violence by Zoë Buckman

21c Bentonville, Arkansas at 1113 S. Walton

On view October 1-31, 2018

Zoë Buckman is a New York City based artist. Buckman is a multi-disciplinary artist working in sculpture, installation, and photography, exploring themes of Feminism, mortality, and equality. For her billboard commissioned by 21c and For Freedoms, she portrays a vintage dish cloth embroidered with the words “Inaction is Apathy Collusion is Violence.” The use of machine embroidery on a dish cloth is symbolic of the intrinsic violence of domesticity and the female experience throughout history.  It speaks to the concept that in this climate, inaction and apathy are tantamount to violence and implores all viewers to take responsibility and do what we can to make this a safer and more just country for everyone.   


Thoughts and Prayers by Paula Crown

Chicago, Illinois at Jackson Boulevard 

On view September 24-October 21, 2018

Paula Crown is an artist based in Chicago. Working across media in drawing, painting, video and sculpture, Crown is best known for her site-specific, immersive, public installation pieces. In addition to being an artist, Crown is a social advocate and has spearheaded progressive initiatives in education, children’s health, environmentally sustainable business practices, and the arts.  Commissioned for the For Freedoms 50 State Initiative, Crown created a billboard that is both a confrontation and a call to action. The work, entitled Thoughts and Prayers, presents two firearms reflected in conflict under the flattened sentiment of a clichéd phrase. Crown confronts the viewer with a choice of action or indifference, thereby urging citizens to “translate thoughts and prayers into policy.”


Never Again is Now by Emily Hanako Momohara

21c Cincinnati, Ohio on I-75 Norwood Lateral Expressway, 100' S/O

On view September 24-October 21, 2018

Emily Momohara is an artist based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Working in photography, video, and sculpture, Momohara explores themes of culture and assimilation, migration and displacement, legacy, and loss. During WWII, her family was incarcerated because of their Japanese heritage. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in an unconstitutional use of power, signed Executive Order 9066 incarcerating all Japanese Americans. In many cases, families were separated. Even those who were able to be imprisoned together suffered a damage of family structure. In response to recent accounts of family separations at the US/Mexico border, and drawing from her family history, Momohara uses documentation of the WWII incarceration to make a striking comparison to the current treatment of immigrants in the U.S. to the past, with an urgent message: Never Again is Now! In addition to the billboard, 21c will host a For Freedoms Town Hall at 21c Cincinnati with local artists, politicians, and representatives from the Freestore FoodBank.


Yo Soy Válida by Stacey L. Kirby

21c Durham, North Carolina on N/S Highway 147 (EW Expressway)

On view October 1-29, 2018

Stacey L. Kirby is an artist based in Durham, North Carolina. For over a decade, Kirby has combined installation and performance to create 'performative interactions' in alternative, private, and public spaces. Fueled by the current political climate and ethnographic research, her work addresses issues of identity, citizenship, and civil rights. Kirby believes in freedom through creative embodiment and invites visitors to become active participants in her work. With the presentation of a billboard “Yo Soy Válida,” which translates to “I am valid,” Kirby attempts to offer empowerment and amplify voices of the Latinx community against the backdrop of the U.S. government’s current immigration policies. Building off of her recent mentorship of a Latinx teen, Yo Soy Válida honors the humanity and societal contributions of her mentee, her family, and the Latinx community who deserve to be treated as allies rather than aliens.


I am a Promise by Ebony G. Patterson

21c Lexington, Kentucky at 167 W. Main Street

On view October 1 – November 7, 2018

Ebony G. Patterson is an artist currently based in Chicago, Illinois. Born in Jamaica, Patterson is an interdisciplinary artist whose work examines how identities are made visible and invisible in our society. Using popular contemporary cultural archetypes, Patterson explores how new technologies and new spaces have increased the visibility of disenfranchised groups. With I am a Promise, Patterson draws the text from a popular children’s hymn, to ask viewers what social hierarchy within postcolonial spaces and its relationship does to dress, disenfranchisement, body politics, invisibility, and visibility while asking the audience to bear witness. The image is taken from her series, ‘…when they grow up’ which shows pictures of black children in varying ages engaged in daily activities and captures innocence that is often denied to black youth.


Behind the Myth of Benevolence by Titus Kaphar

21c Louisville, Kentucky at I-65 @ Audubon F/S, faces south

On view October 2 – 30, 2018

Titus Kaphar is an artist based in New Haven, Connecticut. A painter and sculptor whose practice examines the history of representation, Kaphar utilizes styles and conventions from the art historical canon and, using techniques like cutting, shredding, and erasing, he illuminates social inequalities and addresses African-American experiences, from our country's founding to today, and confronts our past to highlight the inadequacies of our present. With Behind the Myth of Benevolence, Kaphar attempts to give presence to the hundreds of thousands of untold and hidden narratives about usurped liberty through representing the story of Thomas Jefferson’s enslaved woman Sally Mae Hemmings, who was the mother of the founding father’s children. This work represents the countless women throughout history whose liberty was taken from them at the hands of powerful men and gives presence and voice to these erased histories.


Indivisible and Hoover Wagons by Jeremy Dean

21c Kansas City at 1-35 & Terrace E/S

On view August 27, - November 7, 2018

Jeremy Dean is an artist based in New York City. Through research, direct action, and repetitive gesture, multimedia artist Dean works to bring new histories to light and provoke new conversations on the nature of freedom. Dean created two billboards in collaboration with 21c and For Freedoms on view in Kansas City. For Indivisible, Dean depicts an altered American flag that builds upon his ongoing series Rendered Flags. Through unweaving American flags and reassembling the materials, Dean presents a reconfigured American flag alongside the word INDIVISIBLE that speaks to the current divisive political climate. Dean’s second billboard is a part of his series of horse-drawn cars, commenting on the history of Depression Era “Hoover Wagons,” in which impoverished Americans transformed their cars into stagecoaches because they could not afford gas. Using the image of a Hummer-turned-stagecoach, Dean comments on American consumption, advocates for environmentalism, and alludes to the perils of what could happen when natural resources run out.


Ride Walk Drive March Vote by Derrick Adams

Miami, Florida at NW 79th Street

On view October 1 – 29, 2018

Derrick Adams is an artist based in New York City. With a multidisciplinary practice, Adams works across performance, video, sound, and 2D and 3D realms and focuses on the fragmentation and manipulation of structure and surface, exploring self-image and forward projection. For his billboard commissioned by 21c and For Freedoms, Adams urges viewers to cast their vote in upcoming elections with the text, “Ride Walk Drive March Vote.”


Love Over Rules by Hank Willis Thomas

21c Nashville, Tennessee at I-24 .40 M/N Jefferson St W/S F/N, faces north

On view October 1-November 7, 2018

Hank Willis Thomas is a New York City based artist and co-founder of For Freedoms. Thomas is a conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to perspective identity, commodity, media, and popular culture. For his billboard, he  memorializes his cousin, Songha Willis, who was murdered in Philadelphia in 2000. A month after his cousin’s death, Thomas found a recording of the incident and learned his cousin’s last words were ‘love over rules.’


WE ARE THE ASTROID by Justin Brice Guariglia

21c Oklahoma City at 2903 W I-40, facing west

On view October 2 - 30, 2018

Justin Brice Guariglia is an artist based in New York City. Artist and environmental activist, Guariglia works across disciplines and collaborates with scientists, philosophers, and journalists to explore important ecological issues of our time and was the first artist to fly on earth science missions with NASA. For his billboard commissioned by 21c and For Freedoms, Guariglia presents a text-based work entitled “WE ARE THE ASTEROID.” The work draws from HYPEROBJECTS: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (Minnesota, 2013) written by philosopher Timothy Morton, Professor and Rita Shea Guffey Chair in English at Rice University, Morton, which explores the intersection of object-oriented thought and ecological studies. Guariglia seeks to use his role as an artist as a positive force for making social and political change by giving audiences new ways to see and understand the world.

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Rendering of Kansas City billboard design by Jeremy Dean. Image courtesy of the artist and 21c Museum Hotels

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