Project Description

For Freedoms Congress  (2020)

Los Angeles, CA

Atelier Paula Crown participated in new public art installation at the For Freedoms Congress in Los Angeles, February 28 – March 1, 2020.

FOR FREEDOMS creates platforms for empathetic connections and civil discourse. What if we could start discussions with what we agree on? What are our shared values? And most importantly, how can we optimize solutions to immigration, gun safety, discrimination, and health care?

For the For Freedoms Congress, Crown has created 4 public benches modified to display imagery reminiscent of advertisements on bus benches seen throughout many cities in the United States, including Los Angeles. Crown recontextualizes images, with words and drawings to prompt reflection and to create space for a broader conversation. Thoughts and Prayers presents two firearms reflected in conflict under the flattened sentiment of a clichéd phrase.  Crown confronts the viewer with a choice of action or indifference thereby urging citizens to “take action, and turn thoughts and prayers into wise policies.” Other works highlight the urgent climate crisis, immigration, freedom and a mantra about compassion for ourselves and one another. 

Contemporary political discourse is polarized. It focuses on the transmitting of information, not the receiving. We have 2 ears for listening and only one mouth for speaking. Avoiding the didactic, Crown is interested in the viewer’s intimate experience of this installation. Public benches have come to represent a community’s decision to constrain the use of a public amenity. They reflect larger societal values and fears. Many city benches now incorporate seat dividers designed to discourage people from sleeping or loitering on them. In Los Angeles, a city with a critical shortage of affordable housing, such benches abound. These do not address the core problem of housing, basic needs, and services for our fellow citizens. Those without a home need compassion, health, and support, not more constraints if our society is to thrive. Crown’s benches are intentionally designed without separators. It is an intimate personal act, knowing that we collectively need to ease the homelessness crisis in our country.

For Freedoms Congress will be hosted in Los Angeles in partnership with The Museum of Contemporary Art, The Japanese American National Museum, Hammer Museum, Crenshaw Dairy Mart, and other arts institutions around the city. FFCon will deliver an engaging series of artist-led programs and workshops that build upon Los Angeles’ historic role as the birthplace and driver of important artistic-lead cultural movements over the decades. Along with closed-door sessions with For Freedoms partners, the Congress will include 4 public Town Hall programs curated and co-hosted by SANKOFA, and a public day of programming on March 1 at the Hammer Museum.

Paula Crown’s past collaborations with For Freedoms include the installation of billboards in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Wyoming in 2018 as part of For Freedom’s 50 State Initiative, the solo exhibition I am FOR at Fort Gansevoort, New York, NY in 2018 and the group exhibition For Freedoms, curated by Hank Willis Thomas at Jack Shainman Gallery, NY in 2016.

Photography by Jacqueline Verdugo and Ural Garrett