Thinking about separating art from their artists

Sam Keimweiss

Schuyler Rabbin-Birnbaum (12) and Dean of the Class of 2019 Nick Perry’s workshop allowed me to explore my beliefs about separating art from artists.

Their workshop dug into the issues that Schuyler addressed in his opinion piece published in the Record last month, where he discussed Trevor Noah’s problematic tweets from a decade ago. The workshop examined how Noah’s tweets change “Born a Crime” and how to interact with work by artists who have made unethical decisions.

The workshop covered Noah but quickly expanded to include others such as Kevin Spacey, Kanye West, Harvey Weinstein, and even Hitler, as we examined the way morality intersects with art.

If you have an emotional attachment to a piece of art or literature and the creator does something that goes against your morals, it will influence the way you view the art. However, if you can separate the art from the person, it is possible to keep the original emotion associated with the piece.

It’s possible that Noah’s problematic tweets change the way you read the book, but at the same time, you can appreciate the book without allowing tweets to change your perspective of it.

Going forward, it is important that students make informed, independent decisions about how artists themselves affect how students approach their work. It is important that teachers accept students’ opinions on this subject, knowing those opinions can be different from their own.