Donald Trump’s presidential victory will be one of the great disasters I discuss with God over Manhattans and mixed nuts someday. Nobody thought that it could happen; that America would elect a fussy toddler with a Louis XIV penthouse and a personality to match alongside the fat cats of congress who’ve frittered away public welfare for years. But halfway around the world in a small Provence village, I was struck with the same nightmarish reality as every other artist in my study abroad program after the results from the witching hour of election night were revealed. I treated the first day like the aftermath of a really bad breakup: wallowing in grief and desperately trying to find something salvageable about the situation. All I came up with though was a half-hearted five stages of grief guide for surviving the soon-to-be 45th president of the United States.
The next day I pulled myself together and took a selfish moment to think about what Trump’s presidency would mean for me as an artist on the verge of college graduation. His first term in office is bound to fan the flames of countless American injustices like poor education, police brutality, and discrimination for anybody who’s not a straight, white male for instance. But one thing I’m certain his dainty cheese puff fingers won’t touch is funding for the arts. Over the course of his career, Trump’s threadbare support of the arts has been all too apparent and artists know that it’s only going to get worse. But there are ways to preserve art education and opportunities that are proven to foster math, reading, language, history and culture skills as well as graduation rates and world connectivity — even in the scrunched-up, orange face of cthulhu’s latest embodiment. Just as cafes were the sanctuaries for rebels during the French Revolution, let art galleries and communities fight Trump’s ignorance with our own creative warfare.
Make Waves with Anti-Trump Protest Art
Anti-Trump art by Plastic Jesus. Image courtesy of Sleek.
From mysterious “Take a Dump on Trump” quarters to not-so-subtle nude statues, anti-Trump artwork has already taken America by storm in all shapes and colors. I’ll admit, not all of them are head-scratchers — I’m looking at Hanksy’s Trump as a pile of poop campaign that looks like something Ringo Starr created in Microsoft Paint. But many are right on the nose in satirizing Trump’s offensive ideologies such as Sarah Levy’s menstrual blood-painted portrait of Trump made in response to his misogynistic comments about Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. Another gem was L.A. artist Plastic Jesus’ miniature concrete wall built around Trump’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which, thankfully, was dismantled before the star was vandalized with a sledgehammer and pickax.
But now that the beast himself will soon be in office, what can artists do to keep up the anti-Trump protest? The frustrating answer is to keep doing what we’ve already been doing: following current events, participating in anti-Trump rallies and emphasizing our new president’s bigoted views through art. We can also join in the myriad of artists, writers and musicians who’ve gotten loud on social media about their disgust with Trump’s victory.
There’s no point in denying that this will be grueling and exhaustive work, especially when facing Trump’s heinous track record with arts appreciation and experts’ unstable predictions for the U.S. art market. But art was never about being easy and the time to sulk is now over. The only question now is: will you use your talents to fight?
Promote Art Education From the Ground Up
Just because Trump isn’t a ball of fire in the brains department doesn’t mean we can't rely on other elected officials who are actually qualified for their jobs. I know; who has time to persuade a government representative to help defend the arts? Well, for those of us who don’t want funding for the arts in the hands of the man who famously demolished two priceless Art Deco friezes while erecting the New York Trump Tower, I say we should make the time.
The future of art education and prosperity was already crumbling before Trump’s answers to a Washington Post questionnaire about arts, culture and freedom of speech hit the fan. In the document, Trump made his apathetic stance on the arts perfectly clear by leaving several answers blank and shouldering much of the government responsibility for preservation of the arts to Congress, the free market and local representatives. Nevertheless, there are ways to make sure art education doesn’t slip through the cracks, namely by coercing local government and school officials on to our side. Other pro-art actions include volunteering your time as an artist at school and community functions and forging partnerships with the 88 percent of Americans who agree that art education matters.
Traveling Artists Stay on Top of International Affairs
Anti-Trump art by Yanko Tsvetkov. Image courtesy of The Sun.
Trump’s presidential victory might be the universal sign you’ve been looking for to study abroad, travel, or better yet, land an artist grant or residency. For entry-level and veteran artists alike, time spent away from the U.S. to work on a personal project, explore new cultures and collaborate with other artists can help boost career prospects and provide a healthy breathing space from politics. However, this experience should NOT be an excuse for artists to lose touch with Trump’s ignorance and hide from America’s shame on international soil. It’s a time to pay attention to cross-cultural affairs and think about how Trump’s presidency will impact the world at large.
Even though it’s a satirical work of art, Bulgarian artist Yanko Tsvetkov’s world map of Trump’s comments and policies has a eerie grain of truth to it. While economists scramble to predict the effect Trump’s presidency will have on the stock market, foreign policy experts are currently analyzing America’s ill-fated relationships with Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East under Trump’s leadership. Trump in office is also bound to threaten trade agreements with Mexico and China as well as dangerous climate change effects and doomed human rights progress. Some people are even fearful of how Trump could disrupt NATO partnerships in favor of striking up a tentative friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. All of these international issues are things artists abroad need be concerned with and do their best to get out into public discourse.
When it comes to fighting Trump, it can feel like fighting spider webs. But one reality TV moron moving into the Oval Office shouldn’t be enough to make artists shelve our sketchbooks and start applying for office administration jobs. We pursued our careers not because we expected tureens of cash and respect dished our way, but because we had the same crazy dream that our work could somehow make a difference in the world we live in. Right now, our world is sounding an alarm to battle Trump’s impending idiocracy; will you be there to answer it?