Kanye West, Viktor Frankl, Toronto and Society's Stifling of Contemporary Artists

Our world puts limits on our levels of self belief and awareness. We live in a world that produces low self esteem and then caters to it by selling you solutions to your problems. You can buy a ton of self help books that tell you to awaken the genius in yourself, to believe in yourself and you’re able to do anything, but then if you vocalize those beliefs about yourself, you’re looked down upon as delusional or egocentric, unless you become extremely wealthy. Kanye West was notoriously and publicly called crazy by tons of people in power within his industry, for proclaiming himself as a creative genius before the crowd acknowledged it, and now that he has become an ultra famous billionaire, there are large amounts of people that deify him as a creative genius, when they were mocking his ambitions before his rise. And he’s just one story that was successful, tons of artists only received their flowers after their death because people around them didn’t believe in their talents until they died and society had to acknowledge their impact.


When creating art you are bound to face detractors and we have to get comfortable with that, it comes with the territory. But it's never strangers that give you the most detraction, its people in your immediate world. It can be people like your parents, siblings and friends that give you the most detraction, and a lot of times it's with good intentions. In our consumerist world, being an artist doesn’t seem like a viable option. Anything creative or entrepreneurial has a very high percentage of failure. From a completely capitalistic and rational perspective, it makes absolutely no sense to go into the creative arts when the likelihood of “failure” is overwhelmingly high. But the part that most people who aren’t creative don’t understand is that we're not doing this because we want to get rich.


It would be nice to get rich, but creative people create because there’s no other option. That's not a romanticization, that's a fact. Psychologists have proven that people who are highly creative are actually prone to suffering from various physical and mental illnesses if they don’t create. It's not an option. But yet our culture stifles creatives. A few creatives are given large amounts of money and put on a pedestal while anyone else that's not making that amount of money is looked down upon as delusional. Creatives aren’t given the facilities to expand their abilities and create something that can aid in creating a better world, largely because of how the arts are viewed in our societies.


Some of the greatest artists of all time get rich and famous after their death, because people didn’t understand their genius during their lifetime. People like Van Gogh, Emily Dickinson and Frank Kafka didn’t make profound impacts on society until after their death, and now the worth of their work is priceless. And that's because death can deify people. Death can make people more than men and women, and that's when people feel comfortable enough to give flowers. We’ve seen this story with countless musical artists in the last few years whose fame and popularity rose after their untimely deaths, even though people were mocking them during their lifetime. The reason why we need a deified version of an artist so we can praise them is because if they’re just human, then they’re like us. And we are programmed to look down on ourselves and believe that we’re incapable.


We’re programmed to rely on everything outside of ourselves. To trust authority figures and society before our intuitions and critical thinking processes. We have a cognitive bias to follow and agree with the crowd, and unless the crowd thinks we or someone else is amazing, we are made to not think that.


We’re made to focus on all of our flaws and differences. We have to understand that we, artists that are alive right now, are catalysts to say what has never been said, to see what has never been seen. To write, draw, paint, sing, sculpt, dance and act what has never before been done. To push the envelope of creativity and language and what's really important is the felt presence of direct experience. We have to stop consuming our culture. We have to create culture. The whole point of most of the media we consume today is so that you want to dress like Rihanna or have lips like Kylie Jenner or something. The whole point of corporate media, which is most of the media we consume, is to sell advertisements, so you can’t really blame the business model within capitalism. But you also can’t let that type of thinking control your life.


Everyone isn’t going to be the most famous singer, or the richest painter, but if that's what genuinely interests you, go through with it, because it's important for the progression of humanity. Interest is what informs intellect. Not everyone is interested in the same things, even if you grew up in the same house with the same parents. My siblings don’t like writing, and yet it's my favourite thing in the world. I didn’t know I could make money from it, I was just interested in it. I loved the craft, I love words, I love reading, I love how the right combination of words can make me feel, how they can be playful and musical while also making you think. That's not something that was instilled in me, that's just who I authentically am, and I couldn’t control it. I couldn’t control being in the 4th grade and filling my notebooks with poetry and stories. And I have creative friends that have the same story with different mediums.


I have friends that have been drawing for as long as they remember, or painting or dancing. These aren’t facets of our personalities that we can control, it’s just who we are. And to avoid that calling, especially for capitalistic reasons, is a disservice to your being. It's quite literally selling your soul to the devil. Art is the literal foundation of human development and progress. The role of the arts in human development illuminates the creative essence of humanity.


Human acts of creation stitch together the differently coloured threads of heart, mind and soul in each and every person. The bigger picture, in regard to what humanity holds in common, is evident in the similarities across cultures in creative expression since the earliest cave paintings produced on every continent by our ancestors. Great art transcends race, gender, sexuality, religion and class.


Those images and creativity in general represent what unites us as a species and separates us from animals. Creativity is in the core of our consciousness, shown from the earliest moment of imagining and recording our stories in visual symbols.


This foundational capacity of creative imagination is what has sustained the human spirit to survive through the most harrowing circumstances as well as soar to astounding heights of accomplishment. Holocaust survivor Viktor E. Frankl, who experientially lived his formulation of logotherapy in Nazi death camps, kept himself sane by envisioning himself on a podium reciting passages from a future book, rehearsed repeatedly in his mind. Our ability to imagine a better tomorrow is the reason why everything we enjoy in our current society exists. Planes, trains, automobiles, music, films, philosophy, social and political ideologies and concepts, religion and religious symbols, quite literally everything we rely on and uphold comes from creative people. The high regards in which people upheld creativity in different eras produced results such as the building of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, Stonehenge and the pyramids.


Art and creativity are no longer held in high regards, especially in the west, and our societies have suffered for it. You can see the disregard of the arts in the mediocre architecture and plain cities, repetitive advertisement music and product placement films that occupy most of the market. Film studios, record labels, cities and states around the world and various corporations in charge of the creative arts are more focused on efficiency and financial recoupment. And a lot of them don’t really care if the product is good. And so creativity is stifled, the world is uglier, our experience of culture is worse, and people are self conscious, but it doesn’t matter because we’ll consume mediocre products to make us feel better about conditions that were created by the people we are purchasing from.


Our current system was originally built due to the boom of industrialization when we needed factory workers and there was very little place for creativity. But we still operate with that framework and stifle creatives. I’m a black 21 year old artist from Scarborough Ontario, Canada, born to African immigrant parents. Scarborough is a part of Toronto but it's not the affluent, tourist friendly part of the city. And creative spaces and information aren’t easily accessible in this part of the city. There are tons of creative kids with astounding potential whose voices are not being heard and are not being informed correctly. Their creativity is being stifled, partly by themselves and their beliefs about themselves, partly by systems and institutions, partly by gatekeepers, partly by their peers and partly by their parents who can’t wrap their head around creativity being a viable career option. And you can’t blame them because drawing pictures isn’t going to pay the overdue bills. Many people are in financial situations where completely diving into the creative arts is nearly impossible. And if you come from an environment that doesn’t hold creativity in high regards, then you won’t be hard pressed to follow your passions. And society suffers for that.


This short-sightedness, in turn, has relegated the arts as peripheral to what is important to teach in our schools. The overlooked fact is that the arts are central to the fuller development of every child. The development of the imagination, for example, is key to critical thinking and problem solving, both important life skills. It also is pertinent to all walks of life, whether the sciences, the business world, physical labour and more.


We live in the internet age where we should be living in a creative renaissance. The accessibility of information and technology allows us to practice our crafts and become multifaceted and dimensional artists. All of the parts are in place to create a creative renaissance greater than anything we have seen in history. We have all of the information the world has ever known at the tip of our fingers. You no longer need to press records for vinyls and you have a film camera right in your pocket. You can create your own store to sell your own prints and independently distribute your art work without a middle man which was nearly impossible before. We can learn from the past and add to it to create a world of people focused on the betterment of the species and the beautification, innovation, enjoyment and sustainability of our world.


As our world moves closer to complete automation, creativity is going to become more valuable and necessary. Now is the time for systems, institutions and gatekeepers that are in control of the mass distribution of the creative arts to empower unconventional artists. It's time to stop stifling creatives due to class, race, gender and sexuality and instead focus on creating the dopest possible future. Even though it is easier to become an independent artist, everyone still needs to be properly informed and guided in uncharted territory by people who have been there before.


More importantly though, now is the time for individuals to follow their interests wholeheartedly and aid in the progression of humanity. And as cliche as it sounds, that starts by believing in yourself. It starts by taking control of your life, ignoring the outside noise, critically thinking, following your interests, practicing and honing your craft to the best of your ability, learning how to be self sufficient and being independent. You have your interests for a reason. You don’t choose what you follow, it chooses you. You just have to start by working with what you have and following that path to see where it takes you.


There’s this idea that genius ability is born and that is true at times, but every renowned artist was born with interest, and the interest is the fuel that forced them to practice until they produced works that were deemed genius. That capacity for genius talent can be acquired in parts, and through progressive stages we may perfect those elements. And we can aid in creating something that can create a better tomorrow than we have today. But we can’t do that if we’re too insecure to even try.


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