I’ve been pondering the role of an artist, what our responsibility is and what can depend on our brand. What qualifies as our role and what is “out of our lane”. I don’t have that all figured out, and it may be more subjective than all this, but here’s where I’m at right now:
“Shut up and sing,” they say. “Stay in your lane. Leave politics to the politicians. Your education, your skillset is merely the creation of an aesthetic piece.”
But you know. You know your education is more than the word on the page, the brush on the canvas, the graceful movement or theatrical quip, more than the combination of melody and harmony.
Your skillset is in the human condition, the myriad of stories and moments and emotions and experiences and struggles that make a life. It bleeds into your art, your life, your politics, your values. There is no separation. And as an expert on the human condition, your voice matters.
- We have an obligation to speak from where we’ve come, where we are, where we’re going.
- We have an obligation to listen.
- We have an obligation to represent the diversity and the variety of the world around us.
- We have an obligation to amplify marginalized voices.
- We have an obligation to speak for justice, for life, for humanity. To speak for the vulnerable and overlooked. To represent without exploiting their story for our own gain.
- We have an obligation to challenge. To guide, to push, to disturb the status quo.
- We have an obligation to truth, in both fiction and nonfiction.
I’m still learning. I’m still learning what this looks like for artists in general and for me specifically. I’d love to hear your thoughts. What is the role of an artist? Where do they fit in society beyond entertainment?
2 thoughts on “The obligation of an artist”
I LOVE this, and completely agree.
I think art is an expression of the truth – at least of what we believe is the truth – and the practice of art can not only help us shape how we express that belief to others but even helps us shape the belief itself. I might not realize that something I believe came completely out of nowhere until I’m anchoring the thought to the words on a page or trapping it within the inky lines as I paint a new cartoon. Art of all forms has as much power to shape a culture as that culture has the power to shape it.
Also, authenticity is so important, and I think that’s the defining element between artists whose political opinions we accept and those we don’t. Are we speaking up because it’s real to us? Are we speaking in love to all sides of the argument? Are we just trying to align ourselves to a certain political agenda?
“Art of all forms has as much power to shape a culture as that culture has the power to shape it.” YES YES YES!!!! <3
And, oh interesting, I hadn't thought of authenticity and its potential connection to how we feel about celebrities speaking up on these topics. Hmmm... pondering... 🙂