Press release

Billboard Art Installation Raises Funds for Ukraine

Freedom House and artist Charlie Hewitt are collaborating on the use of digital billboards to gather financial support for Ukrainian human rights defenders and journalists.

Billboard art installations around the New York and Philadelphia metropolitan regions are being used to raise funds for Ukrainian journalists and human rights defenders, with donations going to support the work of the nonpartisan, nonprofit prodemocracy organization Freedom House. The digital billboards, which depict a stylized image of the word “Hopeful” in the colors of the Ukrainian flag, will direct passers-by to a webpage where they can contribute to programs that aid Ukrainians.

The billboards are based on the work of artist Charlie Hewitt, who installed the original mixed-media work in Portland, Maine, in July 2020 to lift spirits at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Inspired by this illuminated message, the nonprofit Dock Street Foundation of Easton, Maryland, installed four Hopeful signs to raise funds for community service organizations. Hewitt extended the project into other communities in the region—including Newark, New Jersey, and the Bronx in New York City—and The Hopeful Project has now garnered attention across several states. Dock Street Foundation has provided funding for the current project with Hewitt and Freedom House.

“You have to be part of something bigger than yourself,” said Hewitt, reflecting on the enduring appeal and evolving meaning of his artwork since its inception two years ago.

Freedom House, the oldest international prodemocracy organization in the United States, has worked with Ukrainian partners for the past five years on efforts to resist censorship, advocate for human rights and good governance, and protect activists and journalists from persecution and violence. Since the onset of the war, Freedom House has worked to help hundreds of human rights defenders and journalists flee Ukraine, and to empower those who choose to stay and continue their efforts in the country. The organization has long supported LGBT+ rights advocates, human rights defenders, citizen journalists, and members of vulnerable religious and ethnic minority groups in Ukraine and around the globe.

“Ukrainians are fighting on the front lines of a global battle between authoritarianism and democracy, the outcome of which will have consequences for us all,” said Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House. “The Kremlin’s atrocities in Ukraine are just a taste of what the world could be like without checks on authoritarian behavior. We must support the Ukrainian people, independent journalists and activists, and all those risking their lives to stand up for freedom and fundamental human rights.”

Three digital billboards displaying the Hopeful message are currently operational in the New York and Philadelphia metropolitan areas, and the project may expand in the future. 

To schedule an interview with Freedom House or Charlie Hewitt, please contact Elizabeth Rosen at [email protected] or (202) 747-7009.