maybe "rants" isn't the right word. these are simple thoughts about my life. some may be more colorful than others. some language may be offensive, but it depends on your definition of offensive. consider this your warning ;)

30 December 2015

One artist's opinion on The Old Navy Artist Shirt

Let me start with this, I don't have a problem with Old Navy's shirt that has "artist" crossed out in the phrase "young aspiring artist". I don't. At all.

Full disclosure, I used to work for Old Navy for a couple years in recent past. Used to. Past tense. And I left on great terms. And no one at GAP Inc. asked me to write this or has offered to compensate me. I'm writing this because I see so many tweets and posts from proponents of the performing arts (including great arts organizations) bashing the "derogatory"...wait for it...ARTWORK on this individual piece of clothing.

That being said...why do I even have an opinion on this?

I've been a supporter of the arts for much longer than Old Navy has even been around. I've often had to defend the importance of the arts, in general, and in my life, personal and professional. I grew up playing the violin, singing in choir, acting in plays, and generally being a mascot in my everyday life, not just in high school. I love the performing arts, and I always will.

And this is what I thought when I saw the image...

"Oh, 'artist' is highlighted with paint (an artistic medium) and the young artist has chosen their vocation."

Ok, maybe I don't sound that eloquent in my head, but that's the general attitude of it. I did not see it as a bashing of the arts because I see art in every profession. Writing, teaching, building...Presidenting...

There is art in every single one of us. Yes, if we pigeonhole the term "art" in regards to visual and performing arts, then yes, through that lens I can totally understand where you can take this graphic designer's work of ART and INTERPRET it offensively.

For example...a carpenter. Master Builder (#LegoMovie), wood burner, whittler, whatever. These are artists. They have a craft in their skill set. They have a canvas: the wood. They have tools: chisels, saws, hammers. They have an audience: the consumer.

A teacher. They have their stories to tell: lessons. They have their audience: students. They have their stage: the classroom

An author or playwright. This one is more straightforward. They have a story to tell: the essay, book, or script. They have the tools: their minds, keyboards, typewriters, notepads, napkins, whatever. And they have their audience: you.

A president. The story: leading. The tools: their education and background, their eyes and ears, their staff. The audience: the citizens.

A chef. The story: presenting a course, or a meal through several courses. The tools: utensils, cookware, stove, oven. The audience: you, your mouth, your tastebuds.

You want a "less creative" profession? Well maybe that's the real aren't seeing the creativity in the profession. 

Let's take a position that is considered an administrative/management position (if the example of President didn't do it for you).

Human Resources Manager.

The story: leading a company through regulations and generally making sure the company doesn't get in trouble. Hiring and disciplining employees. Sharing information about benefits, the company, and the team.

The tools: hiring practices, training material, company history.

The audience: current and new employees.

How about another one?


The story: organizing, preparing, and presenting the state of the organization for better or for worse.

The tools: numbers, reports, profit & loss statements, computers, adding machines, printers.

The audience: auditors, board members, the IRS.

Or even going back to one of the professions listed on the shirt itself...


The story: gathering data about a world where very few actually know about.

The tools: this list is just as expansive as the space they travel in. Oxygen tanks, computers, rockets, space suits, helmets...

The audience: The World. Literally. The home space station.

So yeah, you want to say there's no art in those professions?

Why should a graphic designer be stoned for putting forth something they felt proud of? Why should a company who generally presents positive messages on their clothing all of a sudden change their attitude?

Why can't you explain to your children, coworkers, and team members that there is art in everything and that WE are all artists. Similar to when parents write letters to celebrities and companies about their "insensitive" material...why can't we have the discussions in our own homes and why are trying to make for-profit businesses change what they're doing to make money when we can educate each other.

The issue is not the opinion of art in this one, singular piece of clothing. It's the attitude towards art and artists that has been hammered into our collective consciousness.

We are all artists. We are all musicians. We are all painters, storytellers, writers, and actors. 

Have you ever worked in retail? Food service? Customer service? You have acting experience.

Have you ever cut the grass, trimmed a hedge, or done someone's make up? You're an artist.

Do you ever communicate through spoken, written, or sign language? You're a storyteller.

I know that I may receive some backlash from my fine/performing arts colleagues, but that's ok. I'm telling my story now, as it came up, in the way that I know best...writing.

I am an artist. Not because I've lived in and around the performing arts. Not because I have a degree in Theatre. Not because I work at a theatre company. But because I choose to appreciate art in as much as I can, and THAT is why I don't have a problem with "the shirt."

p.s. What if the screenprint was messed up and the artist's intention was for "aspiring" to be crossed out so that it read "Young Artist"?

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