Four Essential Freedoms

This blog post is a guest blog written by Adam Chau, ArtsWestchester’s Exhibitions Manager:

As you walk into ArtsWestchester’s gallery to see our current exhibition, Who Writes History?, you may notice four very familiar images. With an uncanny nostalgic feeling, you may or may not be able to discern where you’ve seen these scenes – a Thanksgiving Day table, meeting house conversation, bedside tuck-in, and stoic faces in the middle of worship.

You may recognize these images from Norman Rockwell, or from For Freedoms. In 2018, artist Hank Willis Thomas and artist collective For Freedoms transformed Norman Rockwell’s depictions of what President Franklin Delano Roosevelt articulated, in his 1943 address to Congress, as the “four essential human freedoms”:  freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. These new images attempted to reflect the immeasurable diversity of American identities today.

Interestingly enough, Norman Rockwell lived and worked in Westchester County – his “Four Freedoms” became a visual icon of patriotism in America in the 1940s and beyond. Thomas’ version of these depictions has become an icon for younger generations, striving to show the missing histories left out of dominant media.

ArtsWestchester continues to support artists that are committed to civic engagement. In 2018, we hosted Give Us The Vote, which featured 19 artists that produced thought-provoking works on the Suffragette Movement, Voting Rights Act and Gerrymandering. Now we have now invited For Freedoms, along with 22 other artists, to inspire our visitors to get involved.

For Freedoms is an artist-run platform for civic engagement, discourse and action. Most publicly, it is an organization that transforms billboards into public art with powerful messages, but it also hosts museum exhibitions, community discussions and events. On June 15, ArtsWestchester will host For Freedoms in a virtual lecture about how our community can get involved. For this lecture, made possible by Humanities New York with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities*, For Freedoms team member Jun Mabuchi will talk about the evolution of the group, sharing their mission of re-imagining the future of the artist-driven society. Aptly titled, Jun says, “You are just in time, come play with us.”

Collaboration is the key for For Freedoms’ success; the network has grown to become the largest community of creative civic engagement in the United States, including thousands of artists and organizations that work together to invite radical imagination and set the table for new national conversations. To register for this free event, please go to our website.

*Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this program series does not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.