By Chad M. Kahl, Illinois State University
Milner Library hosted the Thoughts on Democracy: Reinterpreting Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms Posters Exhibit from February 12 to May 7, 2010. The exhibit consists of over eighty graphic works created by contemporary artists and designers that responded to The Wolfsonian’s invitation to express ideals at the core of American democracy. Each artist was asked to consider Norman Rockwell’s visually moving paintings from 1943 that conveyed the meaning of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” speech to Congress and the American people – Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear.
This exhibit was organized and made possible by The Wolfsonian-Florida International University, Miami Beach, Florida. It is sponsored by Funding Arts Network in partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; American Express; Continental Airlines; and The Miami Herald. The exhibit received funding from Illinois State University’s American Democracy Project and The Friends of Milner Library.
The Exhibit co-coordinators, Chad Kahl and Dr. Janet Paterson, were inspired to bring it to campus after they viewed a selection of the Thoughts on Democracy posters at last year’s American Democracy Project National Meeting in Baltimore, MD.
An opening reception featured the entire exhibit, as well as forties-era food and drink.
The Exhibit also featured three speakers:
Dr. Robert C. Bradley
“The Impact of Fear on Contemporary Political Dialogue”
February 18, 2010
Dr. Ross Kennedy
“A Manifesto of Power and Ideals: FDR’S Four Freedoms Speech in Historical Perspective”
March 3, 2010
Dr. Melissa Johnson
“Norman Rockwell: The Life and Reception of the Four Freedoms, 1943-2010: Making Sense of the Times April 6, 2010″
The exhibit also attracted the attention of teachers at the Jefferson Park Elementary School, in the El Paso-Gridley School District. Third grade students had recently written essays on two of their favorite Four Freedoms. These essays were reviewed by cadets in ISU’s ROTC Redbird Battalion as part of the “Cadets Helping Kids” program. The project has been coordinated by Mrs. Mary Sadoun, CDT Sean Thomas, and Mrs. JoAnn Briggs. You can read more about it in articles from the Vidette and The Pantagraph.