For Freedoms and Magnum Foundation Join Together on The Value of Sanctuary

For Freedom’s 50 State Initiative Billboard by Eric Gottesman. Photo by Miranda Barnes

For Freedom’s 50 State Initiative Billboard by Eric Gottesman. Photo by Miranda Barnes

Magnum Foundation and For Freedoms have joined together to install seven billboards from the 50 State Initiative on the exterior of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. You will find works by Eric Gottesman; Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello; Paola Mendoza and Kisha Bari; Cinthya Santos-Briones; Susan Meiselas; and Christopher Myers along 110th Street, and by hank Willis Thomas at the Cathedral entrance on Amsterdam and 112th Street.

Where do we go from here?

This is the question posed in the first billboard of this public art project. Set against the backdrop of a border fence, the piece asks the viewer to place themselves in the position of a migrant. It also asks us to consider where we are going together as a nation, and where divisive political language about immigration is leading us.

This installation is part of The Value of Sanctuary: Building a House Without Walls, on view through June 30 inside the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

The exhibition begins with the historic framework of the Cathedral as a site of welcome and refuge, this multidisciplinary exhibition explores the question of sanctuary through the work of modern and contemporary artists. Using the Cathedral’s sacred space as a canvas, these works illuminate the intersections between spiritual and social identity, and the ways in which personhood and community cohesion speak to and are formed by notions of dignity, inclusion, and exclusion.

The Preamble to the Constitution of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, chartered in 1873 as the church of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, describes the Cathedral as a “house of prayer for the use of all people.” In the almost 150 years since the signing of that charter, notions of community, of inclusion, of sanctuary have persisted as frequent topics of discussion and dissent. The current political discourse about national borders and identity, about human rights and their application in an often unpredictable world, has only made these discussions more urgent.

The Value of Sanctuary reaches back to the Cathedral’s founding and forward into the most pressing issues of the 21st century. The works in the exhibition and their placement within the Cathedral context raise many questions on the path to encompassing many definitions: What does it mean to be a house of welcome and of refuge, to offer sanctuary to those in need? What are the threads connecting us, as individuals and as communities? And where do we draw the line?

Also on view currently in New York: For Freedoms: Where Do We Go From Here at the ICP Museum, curated by Ava Hess in collaboration with For Freedoms.

Simone Salvo