Arts & Entertainment Editor
Love, happiness, freedom. These were some of the words written on signs all across the Student Center lawn due to the work of the Keene State College Art Collective and a movement called the “50 State Initiative of Freedoms” created by For Freedoms.
“For Freedoms is a non-profit art movement,” said senior and studio art major Logan Symonds. “Through non-partisan nationwide programing, For Freedoms uses art as a vehicle for participation to deepen public discussions and civic issues and core values. They are [a] hub for artist, art institutes and citizens that want to be more engaged in public life,” Symonds said.
On Monday Oct. 29 and Tuesday Oct. 30, members of the Art Collective set up a table in the student center and asked passers by to write down what they value on a sign. The sign was then displayed on the lawn outside the building.
“The campaign encourages participants to produce and publicly display their own definition of freedom. It’s not entirely a political event. [It’s] more so emphasize core values and things that are important to individuals. I generate the idea to get others to reflect and actually think about what they value in their life,” Symonds continued. “As day-to-day life goes on, we sometimes forget the things we hold close to our hearts and some of the things that make us human. It’s important to stay true to yourself and stand up for the things you value,” Symonds said.
KSC gained involvement in this movement through Associate Professor of Art, Jon Gitelson. “I’ve known the two founders Eric Gottesman and Hank Willis Thomas for a number of years, just being artists together. When they started working on this project they contacted me and said, ‘We’re looking for one school in every state. We would love it if you would head up the New Hampshire area,’” Gitelson said.
According Gitelson, For Freedoms approached him last January or February. From there, Gitelson began the process of making this collaborative idea a reality at KSC. “I started off just talking to a lot of people at the school to see how this could even come to be. The yard sign image was already imagined by For Freedoms, so that was something I knew we could do on campus, and then I approached the Art Collective,” Gitelson said.
President of the Art Collective Haley Kean worked closely with this project and with insuring its success. “I’m very proud of what everyone’s accomplished. It was such an amazing opportunity to get to work with successful artists who are a part of this nationally known organization. As an art collective, It was very encouraging to see a fellow collective making such a difference,” said Kean.
For Freedoms has expanded their reach of this project all across the country. “There are hundreds of schools involved in this across the country, and actually, Keene State is the only one represented in New Hampshire,” Symonds said.
The 50 State Initiative of Freedoms is the largest creative collaboration in our nation’s history. According to the For Freedom website, “From September to November of 2018, concurrent decentralized public events across the country will reflect a multiplicity of voices and spark a national dialogue about art, education, commerce, and politics.”
“I feel like this movement will be something that is in history books some day. It’s huge to be the biggest thing in history, and Keene State is involved,” said Symonds.
In addition, the Art Collective also created For Freedoms displays in the Carol House as well as the Redfern Arts Center. “Every project we did with For Freedoms was more about embracing your voice, expression, and collaboration as young adults. We have a lot more power than we think we do and it’s important advocate and encourage the use of it,” Kean continued. “We view these projects as one big interactive art piece. The ideal outcome of these projects was to facilitate a conversation about freedom and to get the community to talk and collaborate together,” Kean said.
With the political climate the United States is currently facing, Gitelson emphasized the importance of this campaign not just at Keene State, but everywhere in the country.
“It’s an incredically polarizing time, and I feel like there are no more sidelines. Even by being on the sidelines you’re choosing certain power structures to exist. Ever since I started working here, I have been pushing my classes towards civic engagement and political awareness,” Gitelson continued. “I’ve been here eight years. When I first started, students were much less aware of the world around them than they are now. To me, the most important thing is to get young people involved,” Gitelson said.
When asked what students should take away from this project, Gitelson said, “Empowerment.The idea that the world is broader than just Keene State. This is part of a larger thing.”
Erin McNemar can be contacted at