The Freedom to Create organization was established in 2006 “to harness the power of art and culture to build more prosperous societies.” In 2008 the organization began the Freedom to Create Prize, which further builds on their mission to support and spread art with a social mission. This year’s Award Ceremony will be held at the Saleh El Din Citadel in Cairo, this upcoming Friday, November 26, and will be hosted by international actor and UN Goodwill Ambassador Amr Waked and US television presenter Femi Oke.
This year, though only in its third year, more than 1,200 artists submitted to win the prize. You can browse through many of the artists using a map on their media page. Of those, a handful were chosen for the shortlist in three categories: Main Prize, Youth Prize, and Imprisoned Artist Prize.
I fell in love with their concept the moment their press release landed in my inbox, and had the chance to talk to the Freedom to Create Spokesperson, Priti Devi, in the week leading up to the organizations annual Freedom to Create Prize awards ceremony.
Art Threat: What was the initial inspiration for creating the Freedom to Create Prize?
Priti: The inspiration came from iconic figures in history like, Augustus Caesar, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) and Sir Edmund Hilary. These are some of the giants from history, whose achievements mattered and continue to touch our lives today. These iconic figures recognised the opportunity of their time and space in the long line of history, and created a “Story of Possibility”. The Freedom to Create Prize is a platform for stories of creativity and possibilities.
Why is a prize like this so important? And why is it important not just for developing countries, but for developed countries to hear the stories of these artists?
The Freedom to Create Prize celebrates the courage of artists on the frontlines of the developing world. Artists play an important role in championing creative, economic and political freedom. They are the voices of courage, unity, strength, reconciliation, healing and hope.
We believe we are all members of a global community. We know more than ever that all lives are interconnected and co-dependent, and that freedom of creative expression is a cornerstone of just and fair societies, essential to fostering prosperity and peace. For our world to realise its productive and creative potential, it needs enabling through an environment where creativity can blossom. As a society, our great challenge is to provide each person with the freedom to create and the opportunity to participate as the builders and caretakers of peace and Prosperity for Tomorrow’s World.
In your years doing this, has there been a particular artist that moved you in a special way?
Every artist that is using his/her talent to promote social justice in the world has a story that both inspires and moves. All are voices of courage, hope, reconciliation and healing.
How many submissions do you receive each year?
The submissions have been increasing by 100% year on year. This, we received 1,714 entries from more than 100 countries around the globe, from the Canadian edge of the Arctic Bay to Afghanistan, Myanmar and Zimbabwe.
By planting and watering the seeds of creativity today, we lay the foundations for prosperity and harmony tomorrow.
What does the number of submissions tell you about the need for an award like this?
We are greatly encouraged by the participation of so many talented artists around the world who are striving to use their creativity in positive ways to address issues of social justice, harmony, prosperity, reconciliation and hope. It demonstrates how much untapped creativity exists across the world.
As the world gets more crowded, and as resources become scarcer, there is a large mass of humanity that is being left behind. These people are our concern. The world needs their ideas and creativity. They are key to the flourishing of all humankind.
What is the most rewarding part of being involved with the Freedom to Create Prize?
Freedom to Create provides an international platform to artists from around the world to share their stories of possibilities. We recognise that to achieve a world of flourishing and inclusive prosperity for all, we must stand shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm, hand in hand with people in the hard places of the world, providing them with routes out of poverty and onto the bridge to a better future. By planting and watering the seeds of creativity today, we lay the foundations for prosperity and harmony tomorrow. Being part of this journey towards building more inclusive prosperity for everyone is very satisfying.
What are your personal hopes for this prize and the awareness it brings not only to artists, but also to the issues that their art speaks to?
In the developed world, where living standards are high, people are leading a fast paced life, supported by technological innovation and immediate access to information. In the developing world, where over one billion people live in poverty, life is a daily struggle for survival. It is my hope, the platform the Freedom to Create Prize provides for the artists to promote their talent and share stories of possibilities, courage and hope will inspire everyone everywhere, to use their talent and create transformational change for billions of people living in difficult circumstances.
You mentioned there will be a showing in New York, when will this be and where can we see it?
The 2010 Freedom to Create Prize Exhibition will be showcased at the Ana Tzarev Gallery in New York in February 2011. A firm date will be announced shortly.
Do you have any other comments to make about the Freedom to Create Prize, anyone involved with making it happen, or any of the artists for the 2010 year?
The 2010 Freedom to Create Prize would not have been possible without the enthusiastic participation of all the extremely creative and talented entrants who participated in the 2010 Prize. They are an inspiration to artists everywhere to use their talent to promote social justice and inspire the human spirit.
This year we had an amazing panel of judges that included: Former First Lady of Egypt, Mrs. Jehan Sadat, author Fatima Bhutto, Hollywood film producer Mira Nair, author and journalist Mariane Pearl, contemporary Urban artist from the U.K. ‘D*Face’, international leader in development and creativity Sir Ken Robinson, human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC, Professor Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw from UCLA and Columbia University , Professor Dame Sandra Dawson Professor of Management studies, Oxford University U.K., 2009 Freedom to Create winner and film-maker Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Professor of Islamic studies at Oxford, Professor Tariq Ramadan, Professor of Diplomatic studies at Georgetown University Professor Cynthia Schneider and international artist, Ana Tzarev.