The American flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. In an act of sly and generous alchemy, artist Mel Ziegler journeyed through all 50 United States between 2011 and 2016 and exchanged distressed American flags flying at civic and private locations — city halls, post offices, hospitals, homes, and schools — for new flags. The 50 decayed flags form a work, Flag Exchange, that spans the geography of our union, and represents the spectrum of our allegiance. At SFAI, Ziegler’s work is the catalyst for A Living Thing, which seeks to create space for common ground within our increasingly fractured civil discourse. Throughout its run, A Living Thing offers a sanctuary for conversations, performances, debate, and acts of solidarity and resistance — through an open mic during all gallery hours, and an open call to students, artists, activists, citizens, residents, visitors, and others that wish to contribute to the life represented by the flag. Flag Exchange offers a powerful reminder that artists do new and vital things for our public life, even when nothing else works. Art finds the common ground that we've otherwise lost.