STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. -- With the famous "Freedom of Speech" illustration as a backdrop, between 50 and 60 people turned out on Thursday for the second of three "Can We Talk," town-meeting style discussions as the Norman Rockwell Museum tested a new form of public engagement.
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Museum Director Laurie Norton Moffat developed the "Four Freedoms Forums," to mark the historic series of four paintings by famed illustrator Norman Rockwell depicting the "four freedoms" cited by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941 as World War II worsened. The museum crafted a larger program commemorating the 70th anniversary of Roosevelt's talk setting out:
Moffat has said she believes there is a role for the museum in convening discussions about important public issues and the Four Freedoms series tests the idea. She said on Thursday she was pleased witih turnout at the first two forums, which are being videotaped for telecast on public-access cable channels. On Thursday, participants sat in the museum's main gallery in an oval shaped array and took turns speaking at microphones reminiscent of a New England town meeting.
Thursday's session was entitled: "Freedom from Want: Food, Farmers and Families -- A Community Dialog." Five designated speakers, and then a host of participating citizens discussed sustainable agriculture, community-supported farms and food policies. They spoke about the loss of an agrarian culture, the need to teach values of nutrition and food preparation and policies to students, the need for collaboration among government, citizen, farming and food marketing constituencies, the possibility that small changes in food policies could have large effects, the power of local actions, and the value of hope.
The first Four Freedoms forum, Jan. 27, covered health care, nd the the next one, on Thurs., March 24, at 5:30 p.m. at the museum is entitled: "Four Freedoms for All? A Community Dialogue About Immigration."