VCUarts Professor Is First U.S.-based Tate Exchange Associate at Tate Modern, London

John Freyer, center, talks with Ralph Northam and Pam Northam (left), who hold coffee mugs in the cold. In the foreground, someone pours coffee at the coffee bike station.

Addiction and recovery artist John Freyer will bring practice to U.K. for weeklong residency

RICHMOND, Va. (Feb. 23, 2018) – Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts assistant professor John Freyer will serve as the first U.S.-based Tate Exchange Associate at Tate Modern in London June 26 through July 1.

Tate Exchange, a new project for the museum, explores how art makes a difference to society and creates a common space for the public to debate contemporary topics and ideas, to get actively involved, and to make a difference. VCU School of the Arts is the Tate Exchange’s first U.S. partner.

During his residency, Freyer will be available for conversation and coffee modeled on his Fifty/Fifty project. Fifty/Fifty is a traveling series of interdisciplinary, social practice art projects—part conceptually based performance art, part turn-of-the-century medicine show—that encourages dialogue on addiction and recovery through public events, workshops and custom-blended “Recovery Roast” coffees tailored to each community.

The project offers a unique opportunity to engage people in recovery with broader audiences, emphasizing creative expression as a means of assisting in the recovery process and reducing the social stigma and isolation associated with individuals struggling with addiction. Freyer’s work also revives the simple yet meaningful practice of face-to-face dialogue — a growing rarity in an increasingly technologically mediated world.

“Freyer’s work is a unique catalyst that inspires genuine, organic, one-on-one conversations that help destigmatize people recovering from addiction and those that support them,” said Shawn Brixey, dean of the VCU School of the Arts. “These casual conversations with the public are increasingly important amid growing national and international discussions of addiction. We’re very pleased to have the School of the Arts partner with Tate Exchange and to have John Freyer as our first Tate Exchange Associate.”

Last month, Freyer produced “Recovery Roast” for Tate Exchange, working in collaboration with the Tate Roastery and participants in recovery. As part of the experience, this specially roasted coffee will be brewed and served during Freyer’s residency as he and others in recovery engage the public in conversation, creating a deeper understanding of the potential for creative expression and engagement to assist the recovery process.

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Featured image: John Freyer (center) shares coffee with Gov. Ralph Northam and First Lady Pam Northam at the Free Hot Coffee Bike on Feb. 14, 2018. Photo by Steven Casanova.


About Tate Exchange Associates
Organizations from a wide range of fields well beyond the gallery’s normal reach have become Associates of Tate Exchange. This group programmed the dedicated spaces at Tate Modern and Tate Liverpool. Working in a spirit of generosity, openness and trust, the Associates collaborate with one another around an annual theme inspired by the art on display. Now in its second year, Tate Exchange has expanded its group of Associates to 60 partners, while consistently seeking to engage audiences which are new to the museum. For the full list of Associates and more information please visit

About Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts
VCUarts is the top-ranked public art school in the U.S. and offers degree programs across the visual and performing arts and design. VCUarts is housed within a major urban research university that has been recognized for its community-engaged research. Encouraging intellectual inquiry in and through the creative fields, VCUarts fosters rich, interdisciplinary collaborations between artists, designers, health practitioners, and more. VCUarts manages its partnership with Tate Exchange through the Arts Research Institute, the school’s research hub and think tank that supports project development and special initiatives.

About John Freyer
John Freyer is an assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Richmond, Virginia, USA. As an artist, author and educator, his practice explores how the circulation of objects and stories enrich social ties between individuals and groups. His projects include All My Life for Sale, Big Boy, Live IKEA, Free Ice Water, Free Hot Coffee and Free Hot Supper.

Freyer earned his B.A. from Hamilton College and his M.A. and M.F.A. from the University of Iowa. His work has been reviewed in The New Yorker, The Sunday London Times, Artforum, Print Magazine and NBC’s The Today Show. Freyer is a Fulbright Scholar, a MacDowell Colony Fellow and was an Artist in Residence at Light Work and the Fannon Center in Doha, Qatar. Freyer has brought his social practice projects toTEDxRVA, has exhibited at Mixed Greens, N.Y., the Liverpool Biennial Fringe, Liverpool, U.K., and is the first U.S.-based Tate Exchange Associate at the Tate Modern in London.

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For press inquiries, contact:
Suzanne A. Silitch, APR, director of communications, VCU School of the Arts, 828-6819


February 23, 2018