Friendly flag flies in February at CAM

Previous flags flying from the roof of CAM have included "A HORROR MOVIE CALLED WESTERN CIVILIZATION" and "think peace, act peace, spread peace, imagine peace." The next flag to be added will simply say "FRIENDS."

The USF Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) will continue its year long flag presentation, “Pledges of Allegiance,” with a new flag by artist Alex Da Corte. The flag raising is scheduled for Feb. 14 at 10 a.m. outside CAM.

Sarah Howard, the curator of public art and social practice at CAM, said Da Corte's flag was inspired by fellow artist, Ree Morton.

“His flag is a replica of a drawing made by artist Ree Morton in the mid-70s that was part of (a) project idea called Something in the Wind,” Howard said. “Her drawing of this flag was never actually physically realized, although she did create a project that had a bunch of different flags that were made with her friends’ names on them.

“So, the artist really was tapping into this legacy to create this flag for this project, and it’s in celebration of Ree Morton — who has now passed away — and all of the friends and families that we form and how they grow and evolve and contribute to our lives.”

The new flag features the word “FRIENDS” in red lettering on a speckled white background. This particular flag resembles a celebratory flag with red fringe on the far edge.

The public nature of this project gives the idea of a flag with a new meaning when affixed to a museum.

“For me, I feel like we brought this project to the campus because it was a very accessible project — that we can place this flag that normally isn’t seen as a form of art, necessarily. It’s often representing something in our culture,” Howard said. “But the fact that it’s placed on the art museum gives it that context, but it also, I think, gives us an opportunity to approach public art in a new way — in kind of a really accessible and creative format — and I think positioning it within the university dynamic and space allows us to address some of these issues and debate and dialogue in constructive ways around these issues.”

The project is organized by the New York-based public art nonprofit Creative Time and these flags are raised at the 12 participating institutions.

“So, its goals are twofold in that they’re trying to address the political moment that we’re living in and bring awareness to these issues identified by these artists, whether they’re critical issues or whether they’re just issues about kind of generating kind of collective action or thought,” Howard said. “But the project also aims to kind of generate solidarity among the participating organizations.”

The month will feature two flag changes: one on Feb. 14 and the other on Feb. 28.

According to Howard, the project as a whole relates to the current CAM exhibition regarding the relationship between Cuba and the United States.

“That show, the current exhibition is addressing the evolving relationship between Cuba and the U.S. and how that continues to ebb and flow based on our current administration,” Howard said. “I would say that, you know, these flags kind of speak to those ongoing issues and how we talk about and represent those issues in our society.”

Other flags in this series have also resonated with current events.

“The flags have been very prescient in tapping into our current and continuing issues of debate regarding issues like immigration, racial inequity, forms of protest and how those manifest,” Howard said. “I’m specifically referring to the NFL protests during the national anthem. During that time we had a flag up that — just coincidentally — was a black and white version of the American flag with a black bar that divided it and it was addressing the divisions that exist in our nation about ideas of patriotism and what that means.”

Howard said the flag-raising is a short, but informative event. Students can also get involved in promoting the project by taking pictures and sharing them on social media with the #pledgesofallegiance.

“We give people a little bit more information and context for the specific flag and what it’s about, and what the artist’s intention was,” Howard said.