Community conversations invite a mix of perspectives from the community to explore four freedoms—freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

In honor of Crystal Bridges newest temporary exhibition ” Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal…” and the ongoing efforts of For Freedoms, Crystal Bridges is hosting a series of four community conversations to deepen our understanding of issues affecting Northwest Arkansas communities.

You are invited to participate in these conversations with a diverse group of local speakers including artists, city officials and community leaders in the sharing of personal stories and work in relation to the topic. Each event will focus on one of the four freedoms—freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear—asking universal questions to spark conversation such as: “What does truth mean to you? What does an adequate standard of living mean to you? What does safety mean to you? What does love mean to you?”

The stories shared in this program are meant to bring different voices from the community together in shared nonpartisan spaces throughout the region. Learn more about the topic of each event including the time and location below.

I. Freedom of Speech

When/Where: Saturday, Feb. 29 at Crystal Bridges from 1 to 3 p.m.

In this community conversation, freedom of speech will be viewed through the frame of “What does it mean to speak your truth?” Speakers and audience members will be asked to recall a time when you first understood what speaking your truth meant, and to reflect on how that experience helped frame the way you saw/see the world. Universal questions may include: How does art challenge or demonstrate truth? What impact does freedom of speech have on someone else’s truth?

This conversation will be led by the following speakers:

  • Rev. Sekou, Memphis-based musician of the Freedom Fighters band and artist from For Freedoms Collective
  • Srividya Venkatasubramanya, President of Ra-Ve Cultural Foundation, a local Indian performing arts organization
  • Bentonville Mayor Stephanie Orman
  • Rebecca Ellis, Bentonville High School student who participated in the gun violence walkouts

The programs will be moderated by fellows from the University of Arkansas IDEALS Institute.

Registration is free, but required. Registered attendees will receive a free admission ticket to “Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal…” at the event. Register HERE.

II. Freedom from Want

When/Where: Thursday, March 5 at the University of Arkansas from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

In this community conversation, freedom from want will be viewed through the frame of socioeconomic status and access to basic resources. Speakers and audience members will be asked to recall a time when you first understood your socioeconomic status and to reflect on how that experience helped frame the way you saw/see the world. Universal questions may include: What does affordable housing look like? What constitutes a basic need? Is health care a basic need?

This conversation will be led by the following speakers:

  • Eric Gottesman, artist and co-founder of the For Freedoms Collective
  • Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan
  • Simone Cottrell, Multidisciplinary Theatre-maker
  • Angela Oxford, director of Full Circle Campus Food Bank
  • Alfonso Grant, W.E.B. Du Bois scholar and Assistant Professor of Art Education at the School of Arts

The programs will be moderated by fellows from the University of Arkansas IDEALS Institute and will take place at the University of Arkansas Hillside Auditorium. Register HERE

III. Freedom from Fear

When/Where: Thursday, March 12 at Northwest Arkansas Community College from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

In this community conversation, freedom from fear will be viewed through the frame of “What does safety mean to you?” Speakers and audience members will be asked to recall a time when you first understood what safety meant, and to reflect on how that experience helped frame the way you saw/see the world. Universal questions may include: When does censorship keep people safe versus infringing on other people’s freedoms? What about those who are afraid of the people that are supposed to keep them safe? Who deserves to feel safe and who decides what that looks like?

This conversation will be led by the following speakers:

  • Gabby Arroyo, NWACC student and Latin X theater artist
  • Rogers Mayor Greg Hines
  • Rogers Chief of Police Hayes Minor
  • Mother Sara Milford with Mom’s Demand Action, Benton County chapter
  • Mother Sara Milford of All Saints’ Episcopal Church
  • Carlos Amargos, Rogers Public Schools ESOL office

This event will take place at the Northwest Arkansas Community College Main Theater. Register HERE.

IV. Freedom of Worship

When/Where: Thursday, March 9 at the Jones Center from 6 to 8 p.m.

In this final community conversation freedom of worship will be viewed through the frame of universal love, “What does love mean to you?” Speakers and audience members will be asked to recall a time when you first understood what “love your neighbor” / “love others” meant and to reflect on how that experience helped frame the way you saw/see the world. Universal questions may include: How does love affect your actions? Who deserves love? How does love transcend religious views?

This conversation will be led by the following speakers:

  • Mama C, artist, poet and civil rights leader
  • Lucy Capelle, Marshallese church pastor
  • Jasper Logan, local youth mentor and hip hop artist
  • Imam Abdellah Essalki, Islamic Center of Northwest Arkansas
  • Springdale Mayor Doug Sprouse

This event will take place in the Jones Center main lobby. Register HERE.

Registered attendees will receive a free admission ticket to “Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal…” at the events.

Please note that a Crystal Bridges member will be taking photos and videos at these events. This footage may be used for internal purposes, such as promoting the next event or archiving. If you would prefer not to be photographed or recorded, you may opt out at the event.

About Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal…

On exhibition at Crystal Bridges from Feb. 8 to April 20

Combining familiar images from sports and advertising with histories of art and politics, conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas examines popular culture, and how art can raise awareness in the ongoing struggle for social justice and civil rights. Featuring 90+ artworks including photographs, sculptures, mixed media, and his well-known Branded series, Hank Willis Thomas: All Things Being Equal… is the first comprehensive survey of this acclaimed and award-winning artist’s career.

Thomas’s work is in the collections of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, among others. He has been an instructor in the MFA program at Yale University and the Maryland Institute College of Art and is a 2018 Guggenheim Fellowship award winner.

Learn more HERE.

About For Freedoms

Founded in 2016 by artists Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman, For Freedoms is a platform for creative civic engagement, discourse, and direct action. Inspired by American artist Norman Rockwell’s paintings of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms (1941)—freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear—For Freedoms’ exhibitions, installations and public programs use art to deepen public discussions on civic issues and core values, and to advocate for equality, dialogue and civic participation. As a nexus between art, politics, commerce and education, For Freedoms aims to inject anti-partisan, critical thinking that fine art requires into the political landscape through programming, exhibitions and public artworks. In 2018, For Freedoms launched the 50 State Initiative: the largest creative collaboration in U.S. history.

Photo credit: PHOTOGRAPHS BY HANK WILLIS THOMAS + EMILY SHUR

Leave a Reply