Arts and Culture

Inside the University of Louisville’s Cressman Gallery, there’s now a 30-foot-long billboard propped against the gallery wall.

“[It] is a standard-size vinyl billboard you’d see on the side of the road,” said Chris Reitz, the gallery director of the Hite Art Institute. “It depicts the two-minute warning at the Selma ‘Bloody Sunday’ Civil Rights march, where protesters are being confronted by the police.”

The sentence “Make America Great Again,” which was President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, is written across the image in white letters.

Ashlie Stevens | wfpl.org

The billboard hanging in the Cressman Gallery.

“And then it says at the bottom, also in white letters: ‘Paid for by For Freedoms, their website and ‘not authorized by any candidate or any candidate’s committee,’” Reitz said.

This is language typically used by “super” Political Action Committees, or Super PACs, in their advertisements. For Freedoms is America’s first artist-run Super PAC.

The group was founded by Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman, and now also includes a core team of five artists, as well as hundreds of contributing artists nationwide.

Many artists — from Kara Walker to Ai Weiwei, both of whom have been exhibited in Louisville recently — use their work to address political issues.

But Reitz said For Freedoms doesn’t necessarily take a political stand, rather its work is about examining the overlap between art and politics and starting conversations.

For its exhibition, the Cressman Center has been reimagined as For Freedoms’ campaign headquarters.

Front and center, there’s the billboard Reitz described, which was installed in public in Mississippi during the 2016 election. That art project definitely succeeded in the group’s goal of sparking conversation (evidenced by the looping YouTube videos of responses, which visitors to the gallery can see and hear on the wall opposite the billboard).

Visitors are also invited to explore their own connections through art and politics by making campaign signs and sticking them in a plot of sod that’s been installed in the gallery floor.

Ashlie Stevens | wfpl.org

A collection of yard signs made by gallery visitors.

According to Reitz, the show will be punctuated by public presentations, and serves as a point of departure for a 50-state campaign that will take place in September of this year.

More information is available here.

Ashlie Stevens is WFPL's Arts & Culture Reporter.