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For Freedoms and Purchase Students Tackle Big Issues

The ConnectiveCollective held a forum to discuss pressing issues and will create public art to message the outcomes.

Throughout history, art has been used as a form of civic engagement and a medium for critical discussion. From Pablo Picasso’s anti-war message in “Guernica” to Bansky’s commentary on Brexit in “Vote to Love,” societal issues have time after time been conveyed through art. In America, artistic creations are protected by the freedom of expression and are considered crucial for a functioning democracy and an educated voter body.

“Student participation is important to us not only because we want to reach everyone where they are but also because of the energy, optimism and big picture thinking students bring to our work.”

Eric Gottesman
Co-Founder, For Freedoms
Assistant Professor of Art+Design

For Freedoms

Artists like Eric Gottesman and Hank Willis Thomas have come to recognize their role in the political process. In 2016 the duo founded For Freedoms, an artist-led, nonpartisan collective whose mission is to promote civic engagement, civil discourse, and direct action through art.

“All art is political and public policy is based on the culture that art helps create,” says Gottesman, who joined the Purchase faculty as a Professor of Art+Design in 2017.

In 2018, For Freedoms launched the largest creative collaboration in U.S history. The 50 State Initiative involved artists, nonprofits, and academic institutions in a shared conversation about what it means to be American. Over 300 artists, including Purchase College students, designed billboards in every state reflecting these conversations. The initiative’s goal was to include more voices in the political process and increase participation in the 2018 midterm elections.

For Freedom’s involvement with Purchase College has been widespread. Last spring, they were a founding member of The Center for Engagement here. Gottesman and Thomas have hosted panel discussions and lectures in collaboration with the Neuberger Museum. Several Purchase College students have interned or worked for For Freedoms after graduation.

For Freedoms + Students

For the first time this fall, the Neuberger Museum collaborated with For Freedoms, the Center For Engagement, and the Global Scholars Program on an ongoing project called ConnectiveCollective.

Launched in September 2020, the ConnectiveCollective is a collaboration to forge new ways for communities, artists, and museums to interact. The project kicks off with a Virtual Town Hall exclusively for, and moderated by, Purchase College students on Wednesday, September 23.

A hallmark of For Freedom’s work, the town halls serve as public forums for inclusive conversations relevant to their participants.

“The town halls are art works. The forum for discussion itself is a medium. And the spaces of museums are inherently civic spaces, which the town halls activate and highlight,” says Gottesman.

The town hall’s discussion focused on the issues critical to Purchase College students. Any topic was fair game, including: social injustice. racism. gender identity. sexism. the pandemic. unemployment. the presidential election. academic or financial stress.

Meet the Moderators

Moderators of the Town Hall were:

  • Nick Astor, PSGA President
  • Melissa Efrus, Global Scholars Program student and photography major
  • Rem Ribeiro, MA graduate student and Research Fellow at the Neuberger Museum
  • James Skehan, For Freedoms intern and Purchase A+D student

Learn more about the moderators here.

Next Steps

Following town hall, senior graphic design students in the Purchase Community Design class created public art displays to relay the issues and messages discussed. The images below are installed on the Humanities Building windows. Images also appear in the Natural Sciences building, Campus Center South’s Terra Ve eatery, Campus Center North, the CMFT, and the Wayback residence hall.