Freedom of artistic expression is a fundamental human right essential to cultural development and the functioning of a free society. When artists can express themselves freely, they contribute to the exchange of ideas and opinions, elevate social and political discourse, and play a critical role in promoting tolerance, peace and social justice.
Artistic Freedom Initiative’s mission is to protect, promote, and foster freedom of artistic expression. Our programs are designed to directly assist artists whose freedom of expression has been restricted, and support artists who have demonstrated a commitment to advancing positive social change and fundamental human rights.
Legal Services for At-Risk Artists
Artistic Freedom Initiative facilitates wide-ranging support for persecuted or censored artists, including pro bono immigration representation for artists at risk who wish to travel or immigrate to the United States to pursue their creative endeavors. AFI’s network of pro bono attorneys assists with talent-based visas, performance visas, cultural exchange visas, asylum petitions and refugee status for artists facing persecution or censorship in their home countries.
To date, we have facilitated over $1.75 million in pro bono legal representation and resettlement assistance to artists from over 40 countries. Our legal services are free of charge to artists who qualify. If you are an artist under threat, find out if you are eligible for assistance here.
Resettlement Assistance & Residency Program
In addition to facilitating free legal services, Artistic Freedom Initiative takes a holistic approach to supporting artists, leading up to and following their arrival in the United States. To facilitate our artists’ resettlement, AFI obtains work authorizations for at risk artists. Further, AFI aids our artists in finding temporary housing and studio space, as well as employment, internship, education, residency, fellowship, and networking opportunities.
Key among AFI’s resettlement services is our New York City Artist Safe Haven Residency Program for international artists at risk. The residency program, hosted at Westbeth Artists Housing, is led by a growing coalition of arts and free expression advocacy organizations. The program provides safe haven housing, professional development, and community engagement to visual artists, writers, and musicians at risk.
To date, AFI has provided resettlement assistance on over 100 artist cases, and facilitated 85+ months of fully funded residencies for at-risk artists.
Artists for Social Change
Designed to promote the work of artists who have dedicated themselves to advancing positive social change and human rights, AFI seeks to secure the entry of activist artists into the United States for the specific purpose of enabling those artists to exhibit, perform, screen or otherwise display their work in a free and safe environment.
Further, AFI partners with arts and culture institutions, performance spaces, and others to produce exhibitions, festivals, concerts, and events for at-risk and activist artists to showcase their work. These opportunities ensure AFI artists may more successfully support themselves through their craft while advocating for the social causes to which they have dedicated themselves in their home countries.
To date, AFI has supported over 100 artists under our Artists for Social Change program, and produced over $125k in concerts, exhibitions and events in partnership with a diverse and dynamic group of organizations and presenters.
Photo credits: Nosrat Tarighi, Michael Wilson, Thom Goertel, Jonathan McPhail.