© Bill Wade
IFEP began in 2016 after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette vacated an historic newspaper building near the confluence of three rivers — one of the most scenic locations in the United States. The building’s towering, block-long presses — awe-inspiring works of 20th-century industrial art made up of silver rollers, star-shaped knobs, golden gears and thousands of other compelling objects — were to be scrapped.
IFEP founder Greg Victor thought artists would love to get their hands on pieces of the presses and reimagine them. So he and friends raised money to buy and store about 90 tons of parts and artifacts. Meanwhile, attacks on free expression by governments, religious extremists and populist movements were escalating around the world.
IFEP was born at the confluence of these three circumstances — the abandonment of a newspaper building, an extraordinarily beautiful location and accelerating threats to free expression. Now, it encompasses four initiatives: to erect an inspiring work public art, to build a "Marketplace of Ideas, to invent new educational tools and to support artists by commissioning and exhibiting their work.
IFEP has made enormous progress on all four projects while also installing popup and pressroom art exhibits; presenting performances in New York and San Francisco by Vietnamese singer/activist Mai Khoi; mounting an art exhibit on the facade of the former Post-Gazette building celebrating champions of free expression; and organizing an exhibit on the windows of another Downtown building displaying the work of Black artists.
IFEP was incorporated as an independent nonprofit organization in 2019 and granted 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status in the United States in 2020.