Via instagram.com. Photo by Pete Iseman.
Johnny Freedom is well-known in Wichita for the incorporation of the Wichita Flag into art work.
A native Wichitan, Freedom attended Peterson Elementary, Wilbur Jr. High and Northwest High School. He’s always been Wichita’s biggest fan, but it wasn’t until 2015 that he began painting Wichita flags.
Wichita Flag Inspired Art
“I made my first flag out of pallet wood around two years ago and then made several more as people began to notice and appreciate them. My friend, Jennifer Wright, is a bit of a junker and she began to give me old doors and windows to paint the flag on.” Freedom said. “After that, I just started looking for things people were trashing to turn into Wichita-based art. We are a throw-away society and I want to bring attention to that through my creations. I enjoy taking trash and repurposing it. I love the challenge of transforming things from their original purpose or design into something completely different.”
Freedom has been drawing since he was a kid, but it wasn't until he started painting the Wichita flag that he committed himself to making art. According to Freedom, his art has been totally born from his “love for Wichita and obsession for our beautiful flag.”
“Honestly, it's my desire to make the flag the centerpiece of our city that motivates me. In 10 years I don't care if anyone knows who Johnny Freedom is, but I want them to recognize our flag and I want them to love the city it represents,” he added.
Wichita: A Gem of the Midwest
Freedom cites the people as his favorite part of Wichita.
“The people that make up our community are amazing. They’re friendly, generous, outgoing, honest, creative, traveled, educated and passionate. We have such an eclectic group of people in our city I'm blown away at the diversity of experiences when I meet new people,” he said.
Freedom also shared an eye-opening piece of advice for Wichitans:
“Go to a local brewery, buy a stranger a beer and just talk to them. You'll be encouraged by the quality of people we have in our city,” he said.
Freedom is also proud of the variety of things to do in Wichita. From art and music to food and local beer, there’s so much fun to be had in our city.
“We have great food establishments, killer entertainment, the arts, innovative small businesses, affordable housing, no traffic,” he said. “I've lived all over the country and every time I came home to visit, I've missed it even more. Wichita is the gem of the Midwest. No comparison. I love Wichita.”
Encouraging Wichita Pride
Artists like Freedom bring a strong sense of pride to our community, something that Freedom takes very seriously.
“For me, it's important because we want pride in the city to continue to grow. With pride comes the desire to make Wichita a better place for everyone. With a better city, people want to stay and others want to relocate here. With new people come new ideas and innovations. The merchandise provides the opportunity to show your pride in the city.” Freedom said.
Wichita’s Art Community
“I have met so many new people because of my artwork. Customers, other artists, or just people interested or curious about the flag. The greatest gift someone can give you is their friendship and I have been so blessed in this area because of the art community,” Freedom said.
When it comes to the local art community, Wichita’s got it all.
“We have a ridiculous amount of talented artists in Wichita from all mediums. Paint, sculpture, design, dance, music, you name it,” Freedom said.
A strong proponent of buying local and supporting local industry, Freedom urges Wichitans to support their neighbors in any way that they are able.
“Make money in Wichita. Spend money in Wichita. Hire local artists and pay them. Buy from our small shops and businesses. Buy goods and services from our makers and entrepreneurs. Use our construction companies, our designers, our artists, our musicians, our workers. Inject your money into our economy. Use your money to make Wichita better.”
How to Purchase Freedom’s Work
Freedom’s custom designed Wichita flag pieces are available through his instagram account at johnnyict. Because his work is custom, special requests are welcome.
“2017 is the year I will be working hard to support my community to make Wichita even more beautiful.” Freedom said. “I want to showcase every part of Wichita, not just Downtown, Old Town or Delano, all of Wichita. Our people on the north and south sides of town are going to get some Wichita flag love this year courtesy of Johnny Freedom and a couple of my buddies. Stay tuned!”