The Freedom Sculpture – A Shared Dream

June 22nd, 2017 by Bita Milanian - 6 Comments

With Fourth of July, Independence Day (United States) just around the corner, I can’t help but think about our nation’s visionary founders, and the many great leaders who have followed in their footsteps, dedicated to not only preserving but also improving upon the vision set forth by our founders. As a former refugee and immigrant from Iran, now a citizen of this great nation for nearly 25 years, I am a beneficiary of the American Dream, conceived by our founders, hundreds of years ago.

2This year, Fourth of July holds an even greater significance for me. Right here, in my hometown of Los Angeles, Farhang Foundation, together with the Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilman Paul Koretz, will be hosting the L.A. Freedom Festival, a celebration of diversity and unity in Los Angeles.  At this event, The Freedom Sculpture designed by Cecil Balmond O.B.E. and realized by the ARYA Group will be unveiled; an interpretation of the Cyrus Cylinder, an ancient Persian artifact widely considered to be the first declaration of human rights and individual freedoms (proclaimed by Cyrus the Great some 2,500 years ago).

Dubbed the “Statue of Liberty of the West”, The Freedom Sculpture will be a monumental gift to the City of Los Angeles on behalf of the one million-plus donors who have generously contributed to the project. A permanent fixture in the heart of Los Angeles, this monument is to stand as a testament to the values of Cyrus the Great, values that are reflected in the U.S. Constitution and values that epitomize the tolerant and harmonious spirit of Angelenos.

As both an Iranian-American (present-day Iran was once known as Persia) and a diehard Angeleno, I am so proud of this effort. But there is another, more personal twist to my pride.

1I joined Farhang Foundation when it first launched in 2008, as a non-religious, non-political, and not-for-profit organization on a mission to celebrate and promote Iranian art and culture for the benefit of the community at large. A couple of years later, I became its executive director, a role in which I had the honor to serve until a little over three years ago when I left to join GENBAND.  During my tenure at Farhang, I had the privilege of working alongside a passionate and dynamic Board of Trustees, led by the visionary Ali C. Razi, founder and chairman. I learned so much from him, all the Farhangees as we called everyone who was part of the organization, the community, the generous supporters of Farhang, as well as our colleagues at various universities, museums, academic and artistic institutions with whom we collaborated to propel Farhang’s mission.  Being a witness to its growth and prosperity year after year was a truly fulfilling experience – both personally and professionally – I felt privileged to be given the ‘Farhangee Forever’ title upon departure in April 2014.

Today, the Foundation continues to thrive and the July 4th occasion is a stellar example of it!

3One of the main goals of Farhang is to shine light on the positive contributions of Iranian culture to the world through endeavors such as the Iranian Studies Program at USC, a signature annual Nowruz (Iranian New Year) Celebration, and of course The Cyrus Cylinder Exhibition at the Getty Villa in October 2013, where the idea of The Freedom Sculpture was first formed and has now culminated with this historic public unveiling in the coming days.

I have always been a believer that while two nations may have an adversarial relationship, this does not have to be the case between their citizenry. By fostering cultural understanding through the efforts of community organizations, perhaps we can build bridges between people and show that at our core, we share similar values.

And finally, I could personally not agree more with the words of Mayor Garcetti reflecting on this historic occasion – he says:

“The ideas of multiculturalism of religious tolerance, of human rights, it is not something that has just been invented.  It is something that is an eternal human instinct.  We are doing something not just for one community, but for all of us.  In this moment in America, don’t you think we need to find those bridges towards each other, not walls that divide each other?”

So this Fourth of July, as I celebrate America, I will also proudly celebrate the unveiling of The Freedom Sculpture in Los Angeles, knowing that this historic monument will someday be a pillar to a bridge.

To join the grand festivities, complete with fireworks, Persian delicacy and live entertainment, offered FREE of charge to all, visit

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