Addison Gallery of American Art’s “For Freedoms” Exhibit Encourages Action and Expression Red

S.Bahnasy/The Phillipian

In front of the Addison Gallery of American Art stands a sea of signs, created by and reflecting the values of members of the Andover community.

Red and blue “FREEDOM” signs dot the lawn outside of the Addison Gallery of American Art. On the top of each sign reads “Freedom to,” “Freedom for,” “Freedom of,” or “Freedom from” and below the words is a large blank space for people to fill in. “Freedom to be different,” “Freedom to love,” and “Freedom from disrespect” were some of the responses written on the sea of picketed signs.

“Because it’s non-partisan, it’s really important that instead of focusing solely on promoting what we think, what we believe, and who we want to win in elections, that we think about who we are in a collective community. What we feel that we have, someone else might feel like they don’t have. So I want to encourage listening, respect, mutual understanding, and open-mindedness,” said Allison Kemmerer, Curator at the Addison.

Andover participated in this project, known as The Lawnside Campaign, on Wednesday as a part of a nationwide public art project created by artists Eric Gottesman ’94 and Hank Willis Thomas. Both Gottesman and Thomas worked with Kemmerer to bring this campaign to Andover’s campus.

“I thought it would just be the perfect event to involve [Andover] students from all disciplines, not just people interested in art, and also a way to connect to the greater community of Andover, North Andover, and all of the people who walk through these doors of the museum that day,” said Kemmerer.

Many students created their own signs, and the front lawns were quickly overwhelmed with “Freedom” signs, each expressing the wants, needs, and concerns of the Andover community.

“I think that freedom is very important and something that we all deserve to have, so seeing all these signs make me very happy. I feel like as students we are playing our part in a bigger project,” said Evan Tsai ’21, who participated in the project.

The Lawnside Campaign aimed to encourage members of the community to consider the different aspects of freedom and speak out on issues that are important to the society, according to Kemmerer.

“I hope [the project] encourages stronger participation in community and civic engagement. I also hope it encourages people to not just speak out but also to listen to what other people have to say and what’s on their mind and what they hope for,” said Kemmerer.

The campaign was part of a larger initiative “For Freedoms” by Gottesman and Thomas. The two artists referred to the iconic Norman Rockwell painting series of the 1940s, entitled “Four Freedoms.” Gottesman and Thomas noticed that Rockwell’s paintings did not feature a diverse range of people and set out to include that diversity in their own pieces.

“Looking at the Norman Rockwell paintings, which were very popular in their time, as well-intentioned as they were, even back then, they didn’t include the diversity of what America is. Moving forward to today, as America becomes more and more diverse, [the artists] were thinking about how narrow those paintings were in terms of who was included and who wasn’t. There are a lot of missing people. So the vintention was to create something that gave a more accurate description of who is American and what America is today,” said Kemmerer.