On Saturday, three grand prize winners and twelve finalists in a nationwide student art competition called “Picture Freedom” were announced by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, sponsored by ArtsWave, Toyota, and Macy’s. Over the last six months the project has challenged young people across the country to explore what freedom and equality means to them, and to express their thoughts through art. Preliminary voting on more than 100 entries was done on Facebook.

The result is a powerful new exhibition that draws on content from the Freedom Center’s collections. “Picture Freedom challenged and inspired today’s youth to understand and reflect upon the rich historical heritage of the struggle for freedom and human rights,” said Freedom Center President Dr. Clarence G. Newsome. “In the process of researching and reflecting on the many meanings of freedom, these future leaders used paint, canvas, creativity and social media to create original worlds of art that reveal the ongoing struggle for freedom and inspire others to take courageous steps towards freedom in their everyday lives.”

IMG_0439Two of the contest’s finalists were from Cincinnati. Erin Stephenson, a junior at Saint Ursula Academy, named her work “Equality.” Ninth-grader Luke Wilson (homeschooled) created a piece entitled “Breaking Chains and Riding Rails.”

“ArtsWave is proud to support ‘Picture Freedom’,” said Dr. Tara Townsend, chief impact strategy officer for ArtsWave. “One of our goals is to create a more inclusive community through the arts, and this project puts young people at the forefront of that imperative. We also recognize this as another way that the Freedom Center, and Cincinnati, is providing national leadership in the ongoing, critical conversation about freedom and equality.”

“Picture Freedom,” now on display, helps mark the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center’s 10
th anniversary as well as the nation’s 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. More information and the Freedom’s Center hours of operation can be found here.