Behind stacks of voter registration forms and large-format posters reading “freedom of,” the Bowdoin Art Society (BAS) tabled in the David Saul Smith Union on October 18—the last day to register to vote by mail in Maine.  

In collaboration with the Joseph McKeen Center for the Common Good, the event launched the Art Society’s recent initiative with For Freedoms, a New York-based artist-run super political action committee (PAC) that aims to better engage artists in the political process. 

BAS, led by President June Lei ’18, melded both art and political activism by imitating two works by For Freedoms artists Trevor Paglen and Albert James Ignacio. The first installation, a set of voter registration forms paper-clipped to postcards that read “vote for war,” was both a means for students to register in the upcoming election as well as an emulation of Paglen’s work. Lei described the installation as art that makes its viewers think about the process of voting and politics and its significance. 

The second installation—a set of posters by Ignacio encouraging students to write in their most valued freedoms—was an interactive exhibit meant to showcase the diversity of student belief through the lens of political thought. 

Lei decided to begin a For Freedoms initiative at Bowdoin after visiting the Jack Shainman Gallery in New York City over the summer, which showcased the work of For Freedoms artists at the time. 

Though the organization is based in New York City, it also boasts Maine connections through academia. Its founders include Eric Gottesman, a 2014-15 faculty fellow at Colby College. Wendy Ewald, a 2015-16 artist-in-residence at Bowdoin, is also an artist in the super PAC. 

For Freedoms currently has student groups at Vassar College as well as Bowdoin. Lei notes that the PAC has provided an avenue for students to engage more heavily in both arts and politics.

“On a couple of levels, both the arts and politics are not as engaged as they could be at a school like Bowdoin,” Lei said. “I think that this organization provides a good opportunity to bolster both of those identities within students … Students at Bowdoin can have a hand in doing that, and I think that can be really powerful. I hope that this stops people and makes them think and maybe inspire something in terms of arts and politics.” 

Lei, who is going abroad in the spring, appointed Kinaya Hassane ‘19 to continue the group’s involvement on campus. 

Hassane said she is eager to extend the dialogue into the upcoming semester, in whichever form that may take.

“I was always interested in politics and art, and [For Freedoms is] this amazing way that they can come together,” she said. “And at Bowdoin, we don,t really have that vibrant of an arts community, whereas I think politics are very prominent on this campus, so I think it would be cool to encourage both through this group.”