I have been gone from the blog for a while and I am not sure why. Perhaps it is about what has happened in America’s politics or that other business matters took over. No matter the reason, I just felt like I needed to step away to consider what comes next. For me, for creative businesses, for the United States, for all of us.
What I have come to is this: I have no idea, none of us do. The Serenity Prayer has been screaming at me, as I am sure it has for so many of you. That said, it still sucks when I have the pit in my stomach that comes with change and an uncertain future.
I am a liberal, a student (literally) of Elizabeth Warren and believe in the ideal of a nation that nurtures and protects diversity, equality and a global community. That said, I respect those who believe in self-determination and autonomy espoused by conservatives. What I cannot abide as a man, a husband, a father, a son is to be complicit in a world where “other” is normal state of being. I am so with Charles Blow on this one.
What I have come to in my own small way is this: Art will forever change the world. The stronger creative businesses are, the better they will be able to serve as the voice of change. Art is itself intolerant, outrageous, transformative. We all have clients, patrons and serving their vision does not mean compromising ours. In fact, quite the opposite.
Whether you are horrified or elated by the turn of events in the United States, it cannot matter in the context of your creative business. Yours is to do the work so that you can have your voice. Use the fruits of your voice however you choose. Just do not give up your voice.
The absurdity of the cake maker refusing to serve gay couples on moral grounds (cheap press notwithstanding) is the same as a performer refusing to perform at President-elect Trump’s inauguration. The work is the work and, unless you think it a way to garner a market for those who share your beliefs above all others, let it stay there. But if you choose to go there, appreciate that you are marketing first and foremost, not taking a stand.
I realize many might vehemently disagree with me here, that is fine. My point is only to say that your work, your creative business gives you a voice, the stronger the business, the stronger your voice. And I do have to say, I was once firmly on your side. Principals over business. Then came Preston Bailey.
Preston has done business with many (yes, many) clients that are among the worst perpetrators of human rights in the world. Regimes that would stone him and his husband to death for their relationship and their identity. So why do the work? His answer: because it is his stage and if he can show beauty and what is possible from someone like him (a black gay man) perhaps there can be a shift. And if not with them, then with those that can see what can be possible. It is about the work and it ends there. And Preston is by far not alone here – count almost any designer of note (graphic, event, fashion, interior) and they will likely have done work for clients whose personal politics and beliefs are directly contrary to theirs.
History is literally littered with patrons of art who are less than scrupulous. Ahem, the Borgias to name just one. Doctors operate on murderers all the time. You are not your clients. I am not complicit in hate if I help a creative business that creates for bigots.
So what comes next for me? All that has come before, except with more conviction. Help make creative businesses stronger, more deeply committed to their story, to fully understand why they matter – to all of us. And to make sure they get paid what they need to create ever better work.
Art matters, today more than ever. My work is to make the megaphone forever bigger. I will do the work and just leave it there, that is more than enough for me.