For Freedoms Town Hall

November 5, 2016 / 3:00pm

Free + open to all

For Freedoms, the first ever artist-run Super PAC, was formed to encourage art-based forms of political discourse and deeper engagement with the 2016 Presidential election. Founded by artists Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman, this non-partisan effort declares that art - in all of its forms of expression - is a political act in itself. 

Held in the round, this Town Hall discussion will be a collective conversation on political agency and activism, the role of art and artists in American politics, and what freedom means today in the context of the four essential human rights that President Roosevelt cited during his 1941 State of the Union Address: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. We hope you will be part of the dialogue. 

Panelists include Rev. Dr. Bennett Guess, Vice President, Council for Health and Human Service Ministries; Amanda King, Founder + Creative Director, Shooting Without Bullets; Jane M. Saks, Founding President + Artistic Director of Project& and Hank Willis Thomas, Artist + For Freedoms co-founder. Moderated by Dan Moulthrop, CEO, The City Club of Cleveland.  

Sponsored by Deborah and Ronald Ratner. 

About For Freedoms 

For Freedoms is an artist-run super PAC founded by artists Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman. The project encourages art-based forms of political discourse to advocate for deeper public engagement surrounding the 2016 presidential election. Together with a group of some 50 artists, For Freedoms draws inspiration from Franklin Delano Roosevelt's articulation of the freedoms that underscore civil society: freedom of speech, freedom to worship, freedom from fear, and freedom from want. For Freedoms projects have included performances, exhibitions, meetings, programs, visual art-as-ad campaigns, and various forms of inclusive activism. Projects have occurred in Chicago, San Francisco, New York, Houston, New Orleans, Kansas City, Boston, and now Cleveland. 


Rev. Dr. J. Bennett GuessREV. DR. BENNETT GUESS  | The Rev. Dr. J. Bennett Guess is a pastor and preacher who has spent a lifetime dreaming and scheming for a better world. An ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, he is Vice President of the Council for Health and Human Service Ministries, an association of 400 faith-based hospitals and health care centers, retirement and affordable housing communities, and providers of services to children, youth, families, older adults, and persons with disabilities.

Ben is a former Executive Minister and National Officer of the Cleveland-based United Church of Christ, which has 5,100 local congregations in all 50 states. A local church pastor in Kentucky for 12 years, Ben worked for the UCC’s national headquarters from 2000-2016 in a variety of communication roles, including News Director and, later, as the UCC’s Director of Publishing, Identity and Communication.

Ben is the first openly gay person to have served as an elected member of the UCC’s Collegium of Officers (2011-2016). A lifelong advocate for racial, social and economic justice, he serves on the board of directors of the National LGBTQ Task Force in Washington, D.C., the nation’s oldest LGBTQ rights organization. A graduate of Cleveland’s Civic Leadership Institute, he is also a board member of the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (MOCA).

Ben earned a B.A. degree in journalism from the University of Kentucky. He completed graduate studies in public administration and public policy at Murray State University and earned the Master of Divinity degree from Vanderbilt University. He completed his Doctor of Ministry degree at Chicago Theological Seminary, where he received the 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award.

Ben and his spouse, Jim Therrien, live in Cleveland’s Edgewater neighborhood.

AMANDA KING | Amanda King is a change agent in the Cleveland police reform process. She serves as the youth advocate on the Cleveland Community Police Commission. Amanda received her B.A. from Bryn Mawr College in Art History (2011) and is a J.D. Candidate at Case Western Reserve University School of Law (2017). She is an artist who uses her talents to create diverse ways to convey important social justice issues to the community. Amanda is the founder and creative director of Shooting Without Bullets, a revolutionary youth advocacy program that focuses on identity development in black and brown teens in Cleveland through photography, open dialogue and expressive arts healing. She runs the program together with Makela Hayford and Shemariah Arki. Prior to attending law school, Amanda worked as a fashion editorial assistant in New York City.


DAN MOULTHROP | Dan Moulthrop is CEO of The City Club of Cleveland, one of the nation's great free speech forums. Founded in 1912, The City Club convenes over 120 programs every year on just about every issue and topic of importance to Northeast Ohio.

He was a co-founder of The Civic Commons, a Knight Foundation project creating a social media environment designed for civil civic dialogue. Prior to that, he was the host of Sound of Ideas on 90.3 WCPN ideastream.

Dan serves on the board of the Teacher Salary Project, the advisory boards of Facing History New Tech High School and Borderlight, and was a member of the Leadership Cleveland Class of 2014.

Dan is also co-author, with Dave Eggers and Ninive Calegari, of the best-selling book Teachers Have it Easy: The Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America's Teachers (The New Press, 2005), which provided the basis for the 2011 documentary "American Teacher." He's an award winning local public radio host, a former high school teacher and a graduate of UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. He lives in Shaker Heights, Ohio, with his wife and three children.


JANE M. SAKS | Jane M. Saks is a creative collaborator, arts producer, writer and educator who has worked to challenge and champion issues of gender, sexuality, human rights, race and power within the worlds of arts and culture, politics and civil rights, academia and philanthropy. 

She is Founding President and Artistic Director of Project& ( In collaboration with artists, Project& creates new models of cultural participation and experience with social impact. She works with artists including Lynn Nottage, Claire Chase, Lynsey Addario, Cheryl Pope, Hank Willis Thomas, Yance Ford, and Tania Bruguera. Previously, she was the founding Executive Director at the Institute for the Study of Women and Gender in the Arts and Media where she created the award-winning Fellowship program, developing and launching works that went on to win Pulitzer Prizes, MacArthur Genius Awards, Obie Awards and Guggenheims. 

She serves on boards including: Cultural Advisory Council for the City of Chicago, LGBT Pride Action Tank, Trustee Nathan Cummings Foundation, Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America, US South Africa Constitutional Court Artworks and Architecture Committee, Radio Diaries as well as others. She is an invited lecturer at civic, cultural and educational institutions internationally, a visiting critic at Yale University, Regional Judge for the White House Fellows and will be visiting Professor at Harvard University. 

She has been the Creator, Author, Producer, Co-Producer, Creative Advisor and Series Producer on many original creative works in various media and art forms including “Sweet Tea: Gay Black Men of the South,” “MILKWEED,” “Congo: Women Portraits of War,”(which has traveled internationally to over 25 venues including the United Nations, New York and Geneva, the Nobel Peace Center, Sweden, Yale University, Connecticut and the US Senate as part of the hearings on Darfur and the DRC.), JOMAMA JONES, *RADIATE, the award winning international radio series with Chicago Public Media and NPR, “Gender, Human Rights, and Leadership.”

 HANK WILLIS THOMAS | Hank Willis Thomas is a photo conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to identity, history and popular culture. He received a BFA in Photography and Africana studies from New York University and his MFA/MA in Photography and Visual Criticism from the California College of Arts. He has exhibited throughout the U.S. and abroad including, the International Center of Photography, Studio Museum in Harlem, and the Baltimore Museum of Art, among others. Thomas’ work is in numerous public collections including The Museum of Modern Art New York, The Solomon R.  Guggenheim Museum, The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Brooklyn Museum, The High Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.

His collaborative projects have been featured at the Sundance Film Festival and installed permanently at the Oakland International Airport, The Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, The Oakland Museum of California, and the University of California, San Francisco. He is also and a recipient of the New Media grant from Tribeca Film Institute and New Media Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography for his transmedia project, Question Bridge: Black Males. Recent notable exhibitions include Hank Willis Thomas at the Cleveland Museum of Art and Repetition and Difference at the Jewish Museum in New York. He sits in the Public Design Commission for the city of New York. Thomas is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery in New York City and Goodman Gallery in South Africa.