T-shirts and tender artists From the official music video to Chris Hadfield's "Feet Up", created by Shut Up & Colour Pictures, animation by Sebazistan.

T-shirts and tender artists

Jenna Simeonov

Earlier this week, Old Navy took heavy criticism for what was written on a couple of their kids t-shirts:

I understand why there was negative feedback; the word “artist” is crossed out, like it was a mistake to write it at all, and replaced with something nobler and more important. I doubt everyone is truly taking this offence to heart, but there have been feathers ruffled, and it seemed a surprising reaction.

The trope is that when kids are trailblazers of sorts, the kind to think outside the box (the kinds of kids that want potential careers crossed out on t-shirts), they rebel and turn their attention to something slightly verboten, perhaps exasperating to their parents. Often, that’s the arts. It’s not difficult to find a tale from a musician or one of his friends about their unsupportive parents, and their stubborn pursuit of their artistic career in spite of their family’s disapproval.

The opposite happens, too. Of course, there are artistically-inclined parents who encourage their kids to pursue the arts, and sometimes those kids “rebel” and get into science or politics instead. The arts isn’t always the place toward which the rebels go, after all.

Perhaps a touchier detail, for musicians at least, is acknowledging that there’s a huge demographic of listeners that just don’t think that music is as important as we do. That sounds like an obvious statement, but it’s an important thing to grasp, that a large proportion of audiences are listening for “surface enjoyment”, and still others who, although they like listening to music, simply don’t see the inherent value in creating something that seems intangible, subjective, or like icing on the cake of life.

For what it’s worth, Old Navy has apologized, and pulled the shirts from their store. Artists who took offence are a) forgetting that the designers are themselves artists (I know it’s not haute couture we’re talking about, but let’s be fair), and b) assuming that the shirts are taking to us, the artists. We do spend a fair amount of time defending our careers, and it’s often a worthy fight. While we’re defending the arts, let’s not discount careers in law or astrophysics, or the kids that choose to pursue them.

Last note: the folks who work at NASA sure are a musical bunch.

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