The Art Biz ep. 54: Silence = Complicity #BlackLivesMatter

This is special episode of the Art Biz Podcast.

No music. No promotions. Just me and the microphone.

Last week I received an email from a listener, who wrote:

I am a fan of your podcast. I think it can serve as a wonderful tool for artists to learn how to grow and get inspired. With that said, I was wondering if you are planning on making an episode pertaining to Black lives, Black artists, and using art for activism. I haven’t heard anything yet from you about this human rights issue. As a listener, right now, these are what we are looking for. How to get people involved through art, inspiration on making real change and bringing awareness to these issues with our art.

George Floyd Mural in Denver by Detour and Hiero Veiga
George Floyd Mural in Denver by Thomas “Detour” Evans and Hiero Veiga. That's Hiero working on the iris.

She was certainly right to request this, and it’s a tall order that I could never do justice in a single episode.

It made me realize something very important, and it’s a lesson for your art business. Not everyone who listens to this podcast subscribes to my email list or follows me on social media. Because I wrote a long email to subscribers and I’ve been posting on social media.

But I’ve been ignoring this platform. Not on purpose! It’s just that there are so many channels these days. I’m sure you can relate. So the lesson is: Leverage your content across all platforms if you want  your message to be heard.

Please forgive me for being silent on the podcast until now. As you will learn, it wasn’t my intention.

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What I Posted on Social Media and Shared with My Email List

This is what I wrote to my email list, with some updated thoughts.

Swirly Yellow Line

As the leader of Art Biz Success, I want to acknowledge the pain that so many people are feeling after the murder of George Floyd. And to remember all of our other beautiful Black brothers and sisters we have lost to violence.

I apologize for the delay in my response, but I've been trying to find my voice amid so much pain. I am still searching for words. Mostly I’m listening and learning. But I can no longer be silent.

If you don't think this is the place for me to talk about this topic, you are wrong. Yes, I am here to help you grow your art business, but to ignore the current environment–to ignore the grief that so many are feeling–would be sh*tty leadership. It also wouldn't reflect the values I hold dear to my heart.

This has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with our shared humanity. Throughout history, no one has been more sensitive to social injustices than artists. Artists of all stripes–musicians, performers, poets, writers, and, yes, visual artists.

The creative work you put out in the world is more important than ever. We are counting on you not only to continue making art, but also to contribute to the betterment of society–like you've always done, consciously or not. Thank you for doing this important work.

If you are Black … I see you. You matter. And I'm beyond grateful that you trust me enough to be here. I’d love to hear your story. DM me on Instagram @alysonstanfield or shoot me an email: I want to hear from you.

Silence=Complicity #BlackLivesMatter Sign
My sign for a June vigil in Golden, Colorado.

If you are discouraged, outraged, confused, or freakin' sad … You are not alone. It's okay to feel all of those emotions.

If you find it difficult to focus on business right now … Oh, boy, do I hear ya. It's okay to tend to more pressing matters, like your community and self-care. It's more than okay to be unproductive. You are blessedly, imperfectly human.

In the Women's March of 2017, I carried a sign that said, “Silence Is Not an Option.” In a recent vigil in a local park, my sign read, “Silence=Complicity #BlackLivesMatter.” I intend to live up to those words. I intend to speak.

I will continue to focus on helping you with your art business through the podcast, my online courses, videos, and social media. That hasn't changed. But now you know where my heart is.

I'm here. Learning to be a better leader by reading, watching, and listening.

Swirly Yellow Line

The Response from My Subscribers

I received many messages of gratitude. Truly … hundreds. I’m especially grateful for the African-American artists who took the time to let me know they appreciated my acknowledgments.

And grateful to hear from the White mothers of Black children, who fear for the safety of their children everyday. And from two Japanese American women who faced racism when their families were imprisoned in U.S. concentration camps during World War II.

I’m honored that they trusted me with their stories.

Black Lives Matter by Art Jenkins
©Arthur Jenkins, Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter, I Can't Breathe! Pen, ink, and colored pencil on paper, 20 x 16 inches. Used with permission.

Their messages far outshone the one (it must be said) White woman who unsubscribed because she thought it was disgraceful that I used George Floyd’s death to benefit my business. I’m sorry she saw it that way.

I don't know what she wanted me to do. I don't know how I could've placated her in that moment. Maybe stay silent.  Strangely, I wasn’t promoting a single thing in that email, but it was obvious that she never knew or trusted me because, if she had, she couldn’t have felt that way. She couldn’t have known my heart.

I imagine there were others who unsubscribed because they felt we were on different sides of the political spectrum and they didn’t want to hear from me. Fine. If we can’t agree on the value of a human life then we will never agree on the value of art in our society. It’s best you not waste your time with me.

Next Steps for The Art Biz Podcast

I don’t know where I’ll be going from here, but, as I said, I won’t be silent. And, what I know is that I’m not the person you should be listening to about this topic. However, I am a person who is happy to ask questions of those you should be listening to.

That said … I’m looking for new voices who would like to speak up on this podcast. I’d love to share this platform with you.

From what I have gathered, Black artists are being inundated with requests to appear on livestreams and podcasts. One artist who agreed to come on the show said, “Give me a week.” I truly don’t want to contribute to your exhaustion.

I'm going to be here. Yes, we are having a moment right now, but I pray that it lasts a very long time.  Know that this is an open invitation for when you're ready to share about your art, your personal story, or about your participation and your thoughts on Black Lives Matter when you're ready.

When you’re ready, DM me on Instagram @alysonstanfield or leave a comment below.

I am waiting to listen, because again, yours are the voices that people should be listening to. Not mine. So. Thank you to everyone listening for being here and for being part of the solution. Be good to one another.

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7 thoughts on “The Art Biz ep. 54: Silence = Complicity #BlackLivesMatter”

  1. I am very sorry for his death, but to make a hero from him? NO! NO! NO! He was not a nice person, check out his criminal record. This black life matter movement is far left liberal movement. Not just back life matter, all life matter! I am as sorry for all killed policemen, and for the violence that happening.
    Your work is nicely done, but your massage is false, sorry.

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Beata: This is such an interesting response from a director of an organization with “multicultural” in its name. I’d appreciate it if you could point to one false statement that I made here by voicing my stance.

  2. Because of your response to BLM, I was going to unsubscribe, but that would make me as wrong as our current “cancel culture.”

    Instead, I will share my thoughts:

    For two decades, I owned a successful graphic communications business in the San Francisco Bay Area. Most of our customers tended to be on the liberal or left side of the political spectrum and held views that ran contrary to my own. To this day, I don’t believe many of my clients knew if I was a Democrat, Independent, or Republican. Or if I was a Catholic, atheist, or agnostic. I wanted it that way because it didn’t help my business for them to know one way or the other.

    I’ve taken several of your online classes and never knew or wanted to know your political leanings because it didn’t matter – I just wanted to know how to better my art career and business.
    By taking sides, you have alienated many of your customers and have helped to contribute to the political and cultural division in our country.

    Antifa and BLM are two of the most racist/radical organizations in this country. They foster hate and division and shout down all who oppose their view of the world while choosing to ignore many of the real sources of crime and poverty within minority communities.

    No one I know condones the death of George Floyd at the hands of the police, but the emotional response driven by the MSM, BLM, and Antifa runs contrary to the rule of law. If we allow mob-rule and intimidation to determine our future, the United States of America will cease to exist as we know it.

    It is disappointing to see so many people, companies, and artists pandering to BLM and Antifa – both espouse violence and are determined to destroy this country. Some guilt-ridden folks feel the need to “bend the knee” and ask forgiveness for sins they never committed. Others, virtue signal and point fingers at those who remain silent because they don’t agree with looting, burning, and killing in the name of social justice.

    People are silent because they fear retribution from the mob.

    Where are these protesters when police officers are killed trying to help the most vulnerable or when gang members murder innocent people in their communities?

    Unfortunately, many people now believe in collectivism and are ruled by groupthink, as pushed by BLM and Antifa – they no longer see themselves as individuals. They condone censorship, shaming, and worse if it helps their agenda. These movements are dangerous and threaten freedom of speech, artistic expression, and opposing points of view.

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Your Artist Mailing List: Rethinking + Assessing

Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

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