Have Artists Become Embarrassing To Their Role In Society?

Angry ArtistsOpinions are a staple in society worldwide. And Artists, Musicians, Film Makers, Creative Minds and others have a variety of opinions. Being artistic involves creative people expressing themselves regularly through their talents. But are creative individuals becoming less about open minds and artistic expression and more ideological and divisive?

Facepalm… It’s 2017 Already. How Did I Wind Up Here?

FacepalmIt’s safe to say that back in the 80’s our social environment was much different than today, and that’s where I was during my teenage years moving through life in a creative adventure. In 84 I found myself a proud 16-year-old Native Texan relocating with my family to Detroit, Michigan. It was quite a bit of a culture shock to say the least. I accepted the change in environment in just as you’d expect. I complained about snow every day I lived there, I made money plowing and shoveling said snow in order to buy warm things, and I made many friends that are still true and special to my heart today.

During my four-year stay in Detroit I had joined a band and experienced the joys of being a musician, playing anywhere we could from high schools to Detroit nightclubs. Art has always been a part of me, and I’d be the go to guy for the band’s logos, banners, demo cassette covers, gig flyers etc. I did of course earn my highest marks in high school from the art department, keeping my grade average to the minimum D level with no concern for other academic courses. While all of that was fun, I have to admit moving back to Texas and warmer climate in 1988 was worth leaving that fun behind for new artistic horizons.

Continuing Education and Joining The Artistic Community

Art Institute of DallasI graduated with an Associates degree from the Art Institute of Dallas in 1990. And here I can start getting to the ingredients of this word salad.

During my art school years I met more creative minds than I’d have ever imagined I would. And more importantly, experienced an open minded and liberal society of well-mannered and likeable people as a whole.

Our bond was artistic expression and individuality, and we embraced our diversity. We were a collective group of different people from every race, religion, gender, background, sexual preference, political opinion, cultural background and legal status imaginable. We were a big family discovering ourselves and respecting each other through our bond of artistic thought.

Discrimination in any form was not in our vocabulary.

Where Did That Love Go?

Today I have to wonder where the love disappeared from those of us in the creative world. Personally, throughout my career the true love of doing what I do lies in the pure enjoyment of decorating the world, sharing my creativity with others and being a part of a diverse artistic community. Being creative and artistic comes with a little bit of everything from acceptance to negative critiques. That comes with the territory. If we – as artists and creative minds – cannot accept that, in my opinion we fail at being true to the arts.

That brings me to today. We’re just getting to the last week of 2016. A year that took the lives of so many creative artists around the world, and gave us the most incoherent and circus like election years in U.S. history. It is understandable that people are tense, upset, stressed, angry, sad and overwhelmed with many emotions.

But reading this article this morning troubled me. When you read it in context and replace Ivanka Trump with ANY name whatsoever, it is clearly disturbing if you value a non-discriminatory way of life.

Angry Artists

You can replace Ivanka Trump with ANY name whatsoever, is this how we as artists behave?

Is there even a way to describe this? Can it be described as bigotry? Why is it coming from the artistic community? Again I ask the question; where did the love go?

I find it troubling that any artist would take such a position against someone in possession of his or her creative expressions. If you write a song, I can guarantee you someone you hate will listen and buy your music. If you paint a portrait there’s a good chance someone you may consider to be a despicable human being will purchase it and use it as they please. If you design a tee shirt, people from all walks of life will buy it and wear it whether you like them or not. Is it really up to you and your belief system to police the public from absorbing your creative works? I suggest if you think it is you should consider a different career.

After reading this over my morning coffee I was reminded of a piece I wrote in the summer of 2016, having been witness to the disturbing rise in social justice warriors taking others to task for disagreeing with their own ideologies and/or beliefs. Much like these artists complaining to people they disagree with and making demands, forcing others to comply with a belief system or set of values is becoming too common in society at large. I bounced it off of a few colleagues in the apparel decorating industry and received positive feedback, however it never has been published here or elsewhere due to the toxic nature of the subject matter. In other words; fear of having a conversation and an open dialogue…

June 2016

As a Webmaster and Internet Marketing geek, when I’m not designing and fulfilling tee shirt orders I am online marketing my business and maintaining the web sites I service as a web designer and developer. It is very likely I spend more time online each day than your average teen. As a result, I tend to witness things that most apparel decorators might miss while staying busy with the day’s production and customer service. More often than not, some are important things that don’t make the news broadcasts or make it into the mainstream.

Over the last year or more many events have occurred that have me concerned about the apparel decorating industry, an industry in which I have been involved in since 1996. I love this industry for the creativity, the sharing of great ideas, the opportunities we have to decorate the world around us, and the camaraderie we have. And I feel compelled to bring up this topic in order to create a dialogue among us as to how to defend ourselves from those that could harm our businesses.

Hypothetical Questions:

► Someone walks into your shop requesting a gross of tee shirts printed with swastikas and hate language. Do you accept the order or decline based on your personal beliefs?

► Someone walks into your shop requesting a gross of tee shirts printed with racial hatred. Do you accept the order or decline based on your personal beliefs?

► Someone walks into your shop requesting a gross of tee shirts with a design that is either in favor of or against same sex marriage. Do you accept the order or decline based on your personal beliefs? Or more importantly consider the chance of having religious beliefs and abiding by them.

Personally, I do my best not to pass any judgement in these debates. I respect everyone’s opinion and freedoms as fellow human beings. My concern is that society in general is not on that playing field anymore, and there are no clear legal lines between differing opinions and blatant discrimination.

As a business owner, at any given moment your own belief system can be challenged by a consumer with an opposing position on so many levels. And it doesn’t appear to matter who you are or what your beliefs may be. You’re no longer an equal; you’re either for or against something based on the consumer’s opinion who is walking through the front door of your shop. In theory you have the right to refuse service to anyone based on the way you like to do business, but not really.

Recent events have shown that there is a movement becoming popular among those who run across businesses that disagree with their own views. And their game plan is brutal. Should a business refuse service to someone for any reason, they are often swiftly taken to court, and in addition a relentless barrage of online attacks gets started in order to tear down that business as quickly as possible. Whether or not the lawsuit holds any water, the business suffers the time and expense of defending themselves. However before a court date can arrive, their business has been demolished from the online phalanx of hatred on social media, blogs and other outlets.

The “offender’s” Facebook pages get a tidal wave of hate filled comments. They even get their own hashtag on Twitter where they share email addresses, links to the businesses online properties to deface, even any personal information they can find. If the business is taking advantage of a site that offers online reviews, within 24 hours those pages are going up in flames with hateful reviews. If a phone number is public, good luck answering all of the hate filled calls and possible threats.

In short, there can be an army of people at the ready to destroy a business as fast as someone can Tweet out the message that they’ve been declined service, or offended by your refusal to provide your service to them regardless of your own belief system.

Although I am about as qualified to give legal advice as I am for training people in Underwater Whiffle Ball, I am pretty good at doing research, and what I have discovered is that there is no universal answer for this hypothetical situation. In addition, laws vary from state to state. For example here in Texas an individual has every right to walk into my place of business carrying a firearm. Fortunately, by law I am aloud to occupy and protect my place of business with my own firearm. Where our conversation goes from there is anyone’s guess, but we’ve both complied with the law until anything unusual occurs.

In your state, it could be that someone can legally enter your shop with a firearm. But if you ask them to leave you could leave yourself open to ridicule from pro-gun activists and a possible lawsuit. And angry people with guns, social media accounts, and a lot of time on their hands for taking you down.

These things are disappointing, but as business owners we should be aware and know what our options are should something occur in this new world of “social justice”. We not only work hard for our businesses, we work hard for our online properties and we work hard to keep them respectable and providing us with success. We work hard to be respectful to our clients, customers and the public. I think it would be good advice to make sure we can insure all of that hard work can’t be torn down in a day by an online mob due to a disagreement or misunderstanding.

Be aware and be prepared. And by all means, let’s keep decorating the world. At certain times, it tends to get ugly.



Kentucky Court Rules Printer Can’t Be Forced to Produce Pro-Gay Messages

It’s a fairly pure example of compelled speech.
April 27, 2015

What Does That Mean For Us?

Using the hypothetical questions from the article above you would find hundreds of answers, feelings and opinions. However I am reminded of how we would approach those scenarios back in art school. Someone would get their shirts printed without anyone coming unglued, and we would all be respectful as to why others may not have participated in the project. Simple, done, move on to the next project and celebrate finishing the previous one.

The Future Of Artistic Expression

Without question creative minds and artists from every corner of artistic expression will be moving forward this New Year. My concern is where we are headed as an artistic family in such a toxic environment. Are we to express ourselves though our crafts and without any prejudices of our own allow those expressions be representative and judged individually by the eyes and ears of the beholders? Or will the diverse, open minded and tolerant community of artists we once were allow society to lead us into a judgmental state of existence?

What I fear is the latter, and as a creative and artistic individual being labeled by society as intolerant, elite or a number of other things due to the actions of artists who may need to be held accountable for actions I did not participate in.

Criticism and debate are healthy in life; let’s not allow those things to alter our role in such a wonderful field.

Who are we as artists if not open and tolerant individuals?

Regardless of that fear I intend on staying true to my experience from art school. Being tolerant and accepting the world around me as it evolves, respecting others along with their beliefs and values, and only asking that they treat me in the same manner. I will carry on helping others with my creative services and selling tee shirts to anyone willing to buy them and enjoy my designs regardless of their beliefs or value system.

If I see someone I disagree with wearing a shirt I designed and produced, I’ll be happy they’re wearing it. I’d like to see other artists and creative people share that mind set.

So I can only hope that other artists and talents in the creative landscape of our society follow suit. Criticism and debate are healthy in life; let’s not allow those things to alter our role in such a wonderful field.

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