This article was originally published on Getty News & Stories
In the middle of a park in Long Beach, local artist Mufasa was encouraging kids and grown-ups alike to unleash their inner creativity.
Along with fellow artists Mister Toledo and Josh Garcia, Mufasa set up big sheets of white paper, with cups of paint and paintbrushes scattered enticingly around. After a few hours, the paper was filled with colorful depictions of faces, a palm tree, the Queen Mary, and more.
This activity was part of the recent Getty 25 community festival in Long Beach, and it represents what Mufasa hopes is the future of art: an experience that is interactive, open, and welcoming to young people.
Mufasa was one of dozens of aspiring creatives who participated in Getty’s 10 community festivals to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Getty Center as well as LA’s thriving cultural scene. For these practitioners, the future looks alternately bright and uncertain. Despite the accessibility of digital platforms and other technology, young artists still contend with many of the same struggles their predecessors confronted for centuries: getting paid for their work and being recognized by cultural “gatekeepers,” like museums and galleries (a struggle that even masters like Nicolas Poussin, the “Father of French Classicism,” faced).
“Museums need to humble themselves and get immersed into what kids, teens, and young budding artists are doing and find ways to get their voices out there,” Mufasa said, before adding strokes of green and pink to the paper. “There are so many artists with immense talent.”
Art gets social
It’s impossible to talk to young artists without discussing the influence of social media. While Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter help them connect with other creatives, display their work, and market and sell their pieces directly to their fans, there are challenges. Mufasa chalked up people’s decreasing attention spans to smartphones and social media, making it harder to get audiences to pay attention to art. Musician and filmmaker Aldre’ Williams, who along with artist RFX1 helped run a painting workshop like the one in Long Beach at Getty’s Koreatown festival, said he thinks social media has made it easier to produce art but harder (and therefore less lucrative) to generate something unique. Algorithm-fueled trends and “popular content” can serve as inspiration but also have a homogenizing effect.
“The challenge right now is [we’re] so saturated with so much art. I feel like if you’re not doing a certain box of art, then you’re not really allowed to flourish,” Williams said. “In music, you’ve got to make a trap song, you’ve got to have a chain and guns, if you’re Black,” he said. “I’m not allowed to be multi, I’m not allowed to be all these other people.”
Deconstructing the museum
The evolution of digital tools has helped disseminate new art forms that are more accessible to audiences. féi hernandez, an author, performance artist, and graphic designer who hosted a booth at the Getty festival in Inglewood, said a recent Takashi Murakami exhibition at the Broad Museum inspired them because it featured barcodes that linked to additional images when scanned by a smartphone. hernandez suggested that this could open up more opportunities for queer, transgender, Black, Indigenous, and people of color—those who aren’t always supported by more traditional museum spaces.
“What happens when you put a barcode in the middle of the street or on a tree, and what if we deconstruct these hierarchies of who has access to space?” hernandez asked. “What if Centinela Park becomes this walking outdoor museum that is curated by the community itself?”
The path ahead
RFX1, a muralist, said he looks for city-funded jobs because they often pay well. Kiara Oliver displayed a vast selection of artwork and clothing from her company, Kats and Dragons, at the Koreatown festival, but said she views her business as a “side hustle” that gives her a creative outlet while she pursues an acting career. Artists must constantly seek out and create their own opportunities.
That means young creators’ futures often hinge on how welcoming institutions, buyers, galleries, and digital spaces are to fresh perspectives from diverse voices. All art enthusiasts, from museums to individuals searching for pieces to adorn their homes, can choose to seek out and support work by up-and-coming makers.
Just like each generation of artists before them, this cohort is brimming with fresh ideas and a unique perspective, giving us a thrilling glimpse of where the art world could be headed—if its newest members are given a seat at the table. RFX1 said he’s been incorporating a lot of sun imagery in his work (“Because of the pandemic, people really need hope right now and sunshine,” he explained) and has noticed a trend among artists to paint portraits as a means of showing love to their communities. Oliver created her own mythological universe with 12 unique dragons, each featuring a different personality. And hernandez recently debuted a performance art piece at the Broad called Ascenxión Libertad that explores their story as a disabled, transgender, formerly undocumented artist.
“Some may think I’m naive, but I do believe that there’s a way to distribute power and wealth and access in a way that is equitable and important,” hernandez said, and still curate something beautiful.”