Hank Willis Thomas
As Black Lives Matter protesters took to the streets of Brooklyn this summer, Hank Willis Thomas’ Unity, a bronze sculpture of an enormous arm pointing a finger to the sky, took on new meaning. If the statue once alluded to the finger used to balance and spin a basketball, the crowd’s raised arms mimicking the artwork augmented its other meaning: a coming together to show strength and solidarity. On Instagram, Thomas reinforced this message, posting a photo of his daughter in a stroller next to the sculpture.
Thomas might be America’s busiest artist. In addition to making work, he is a founding member of For Freedoms, an artist-led organization that models and increases creative civic engagement, discourse and action. Their latest project, Wide Awake, identifies two goals: in the short term, increasing the joy of voting, and in the long term, building a political and cultural identity around listening, healing and justice. They achieve these goals by creating billboards, downloadable signs, wearable merchandise and connection with others. Notably, For Freedoms is a client of another changemaker on this list—Red Olive Consulting founder DéLana R.A. Dameron. Talented people do tend to find each other.