'For Freedoms' Town Hall Will Blend Art with Politics

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Just days before what is widely considered the most important election of our generation, MOCA Cleveland is bringing For Freedoms co-founder and legendary African American artist Hank Willis Thomas to Cleveland for a Town Hall-style discussion with special guests.

“Artists always play a role in the political climate,” says Thomas, “but it’s really difficult to play a direct role in the political system. I think that it’s important that art isn’t just seen as decorative or entertaining, but as something that is really engaged.”

Thomas is one of the most highly acclaimed artists working today. His photo conceptual art explores themes of identity, race, history and pop culture. Thomas earned his BFA in Photography and Africana Studies at New York University and his MFA in Photography and Visual Criticism from California College of Arts. In 2015, Thomas co-founded For Freedoms with fellow artist Eric Gottesman “to encourage art-based forms of political discourse and deeper engagement surrounding the 2016 presidential election.”

Guests joining Thomas at MOCA Cleveland for the panel include: Rev. J. Bennett Guess, Vice President of Health and Human Services Ministries, United Church of Christ, and Amanda King, founder of Shooting Without Bullets.

For Freedoms Town Hall is a follow up to last month’s For Freedoms voter registration drive and “Personal Freedoms” yard sign making event. Another “Personal Freedoms” yard sign making event will precede the panel discussion. The free event takes place from 3 to 5 p.m. this Saturday, Nov. 5, at MOCA Cleveland.

Adds MOCA Senior Curator Andria Hickey: “Ohio is an exciting place to be during an election season. Cuyahoga County and Cleveland specifically, are an electoral bellwether for the region and here, our participation in the political system has a fundamental impact on the future of the national political landscape. The For Freedoms Artist-led super PAC brings a vital perspective to the political process, engaging the PAC (Political Action Committee) campaign model to reveal the role that artists can play in the 2016 Presidential Election. Across the country, the super PAC is inviting us to participate, take action, and define what freedoms we stand for. Here in Cleveland it will be an especially meaningful exchange.”

Additionally, as part of MOCA Cleveland’s Free First Saturdays, the museum’s current exhibitions are free and open to the public from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. thanks to the generous support of PNC. Free First Saturdays include family-friendly activities and workshops, as well as guided tours for adults.

MOCA Cleveland’s Fall 2016 Exhibitions include: Wall to Wall: Carpets by Artists, Anders Ruhwald’s Unit 1: 3583 Dubois, Acts of Speech and Anthony Discenza: A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats. All exhibitions remain on view through Jan. 8.

(MOCA Cleveland) 11400 Euclid Ave., 216-421-8671, mocacleveland.org

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