There is a perception about artists (mostly in America) that contradicts reality: Artists are dispensable, and adaptable sources of creative energy, kinda like factory-made machinery.
This ideal of artists is not only harmful to the industry in which many artists struggle within but it’s also just plain ignorant.
When I first offered to work on a extra-curricular project for my school I wasn’t aware of all the details. I knew I might have to conform to their standards and as a recently-commissioned artist I was prepared for all of that but when I finally got more details…I didn’t realize what I was getting into. They gave me their specifications and I complied as best I could: A dream catcher in the school colors, with 5 items within the dream catcher that could change color in accordance with a specific department in the program.
First off: dream catchers are generic and have been over done. Second: the school is notorious for misappropriating Native American culture (the mascot is a warrior…a native american warrior….) and the symbolisms and religions associated with the culture which is pretty bad.
I was honest with my concerns when I came up with my initial sketch and spoke with leadership.
The way the leadership handled the situation…wow… I’m sure I’ll never work with them ever again after this.
I hoped to fix my first concern of unoriginality by parting from conventional styles of dream catchers but when I came to the leadership about it they were, for lack of a better term, rude. They responded by questioning my credibility as an artist and questioning my intentions as a human being as if my design would corrupt the very nature of society.
They challenged my design with a hateful, “I just want you to prove it. I won’t believe you until I see proof.” Of course I never claimed to be of Native American heritage but they obviously didn’t have any Native American heritage either. The fundamental idea of taking this tradition and using it for a purpose that was disrespectful and completely irrelevant to it’s original intent felt so wrong to me.
Is that what selling out is? Throwing out your personal morals for personal gain? If it is I want no part in it. I refuse to abuse an entire heritage so that my school’s shirts can be aesthetically pleasing.