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Utah Museum of Contemporary Art’s new exhibition shines light on power of art to inspire, unite communities

For Freedoms: UMOCA’s art collective for political change

(UMOCA) 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), © Hank Willis Thomas / Kayne Griffin Gallery

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 explores creativity as a core societal value that can be used for political change.

(UMOCA) Jun Mabuchi, Can We Coexist?, Billboard Design for For Freedoms, photographic print on Sintra, © Jun Mabuchi / For Freedoms

Timed to coincide with the 2022 Utah Legislative Session, this participative exhibition invites visitors to create their own piece of art addressing an issue they care deeply about or would like addressed within our democracy. This process encourages visitors to consider the potential of creativity in conceiving radical, imaginative, and visionary solutions to social issues by asking tough, thought-provoking questions we face in society. Statements such as “Hope For” and “Freedom From” provide a non-divisive open call to action.

(UMOCA) For Freedoms, Justice For, Yard Sign to be filled in by visitors in-gallery © For Freedoms

(UMOCA) For Freedoms, Healing To, Yard Sign to be filled in by visitors in-gallery © For Freedoms

“We are honored and excited to host the nationally recognized artist collective, For Freedoms,” said Jared Steffensen, Curator of Exhibitions UMOCA. “I have followed their work since their founding in 2016 and am so impressed by the participatory nature of their practice. They seek to create conversations, call in rather than call out, and have a powerful discourse around social engagement. Founding member Hank Willis Thomas is one of the most significant artists of our time, whose work grapples with important issues, and I am so honored to work with him.”

(UMOCA) Hank Willis Thomas, Liberty, 2021 Mixed media including U.S. prison uniforms, 57 x 101 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches (144.8 x 257.8 x 6.4 centimeters), © Hank Willis Thomas / Kayne Griffin Gallery

The exhibition encourages participation through a reader room, filled with resources organized in partnership with the Salt Lake City Public Library, a meditation space, lawn sign and poster creation that visitors can fill in and take home, as well as a film series organized in collaboration with the Utah Film Center. Using these social engagement tools, a dialogue on social change is fostered.

(UMOCA) 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 an open call to say, ‘what is it that we want our nation to be like’; our nation has been so divided and divisive, it is a call to say ‘where are our shared values and how can we call people to have a collective conversation,” said Laura Allred Hurtado, Executive Director UMOCA. “A lot of the feeling surrounding the For Freedoms show is that hope is coming; artists can envision a future where there is a greater conversation, more hope, more change.”

Our Wake Up Call For Freedoms runs from January 21, 2022, through June 4, 2022, at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art in Downtown Salt Lake City.

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