Philly's Freedom

Philly’s Freedom Art Exhibition

A virtual art exhibition of Philly based artists, presented by the National Liberty Museum.

I never thought I’d be going to a museum in my pajamas. But that’s what I found myself doing on a recent weekend during a virtual viewing of the National Liberty Museum’s newest exhibition. “Philly’s Freedom” is a deeply evocative, carefully curated exhibition that is rooted in the lived experiences of Philadelphians. The exhibition features more than 75 works of art from more than 50 Philly-based artists grappling with the notion of what it means to be free. The involved artists are all from the City of Cheesesteaks and Rocky. The city that saw tens of thousands take to the streets to march for BLM. The city that tipped the scales of the 2020 election. Our city!

In “Philly’s Freedom,” local artists explore a wide range of themes centering on the notion of human liberation. Many of the featured pieces deal with national and global issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the recently spotlighted deaths of Black and Brown Americans. Others highlight more personal concerns, such as intimacy, love, personal pain, and the inner struggle for freedom.

Philly's Freedom
“Flowers for Handcuffs” by William O’Hara.

A month ago, when the National Liberty Museum reopened to the public after a seven-month closure, I was eager to visit the museum in person when COVID cases dropped. But, within a few weeks, there was an upsurge in pandemic-related deaths. And, along with so many other businesses, the National Liberty Museum closed its doors again. But their doing so has not meant closing this important exhibition.


Maori Karmael Holmes – SEEN Magazine


The virtual viewing platform is easy to navigate. With a click of a mouse, you can zoom in on powerful pieces that were created by dope Philadelphians whose art has the capacity to make a difference. Both in its creation and in its observation.

Philly's Freedom
“Defend Black Girls” by Chelsey Luster.

Now that the political climate is more divisive than ever and people are dying, daily, as a result of the global pandemic and racial unrest, it feels especially important to recognize the human struggle towards personal and societal liberation. There were so many beautiful testaments to human resilience and hope in “Philly’s Freedom.”

Some that spoke directly to me were “Defend Black Girls” by Chelsey Luster. “Flowers for Handcuffs” by William O’Hara and Zoe Sturges. And “Pick” by Chuck Styles. “Pick” was my favorite piece.

Of his work, Styles writes “Instead of focusing on the hurt and anger of that time I wanted to create something beautiful. The Afro Pick became popular in the 70s. And meant so much more than just a comb for our natural hair. It was a sign of our pride, independence and strength. Juxtaposed against a cotton field as a sign of resilience and uprising, this is the evolution of pick. Know that we have been through many things and have overcome. From powerless to empowered.”

Philly's Freedom
“Pick” by Chuck Styles.

Of his work, Styles writes “Instead of focusing on the hurt and anger of that time I wanted to create something beautiful. The Afro Pick became popular in the 70s. And meant so much more than just a comb for our natural hair. It was a sign of our pride, independence and strength. Juxtaposed against a cotton field as a sign of resilience and uprising, this is the evolution of pick. Know that we have been through many things and have overcome. From powerless to empowered.”

“Pick” may have been my selected standout, but there are so many pieces that will pull at your heart. And inspire you to dig more deeply. As you navigate the virtual halls, scrolling over images to zoom in and out, you will be invited to explore themes of trauma and resilience. Powerlessness and empowerment. Subjugation and liberation. I don’t want to give too much away because I think “Philly’s Freedom” should be experienced.

The exhibition is donate-what-you-wish, so, whatever your budget, it is accessible. And you don’t even have to get out of your pajamas to attend.


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