Engaging with creative millennials
Last week’s article about the myth of the lazy artist stirred conversations about how the public should engage with creatives without perpetuating stereotypes and possibly opening themselves to aggressive rebuttals. So in the spirit of keeping the peace between everyone, I thought I’d share a few tips on how to correctly engage with creative millennials without fear of being snapped at in the most unpleasant ways.
Now I’ve chosen this particular grouping of creatives (born early 1980s to 2000) because, as a millennial myself, we often get the wrap for being lazy, entitled, narcissistic, drugged up hipsters who are obsessed with anything/everything that provides us with instant gratification. Rather than use this space to debunk those half-baked claims (which may or may not exist to varying degrees on any given day), I prefer to high jump over all of that and get to the really important part: public interaction.
At this point, most persons might be scratching their head in confusion. Yes, there is a proper way to engage with us, just as there is a proper way to engage with a lawyer, doctor, accountant and CEO (you get the idea). Having said that, I do recognize and have spoken about it at great lengths in the past, that the source of this confusion is often deeply rooted in our failure to deliver comprehensive art education at the earliest level of school all the way to the end of the tertiary level. Further, it points to our inability to deliver an education that is truly reflective of the era we live in and that does not regurgitate the same archaic methodologies that have been employed “donkey years” ago. Nevertheless, there are ways to circumvent those shortcomings, if only temporarily. So without further delay, here are a few examples of how to properly engage with creative millennials.
1. Stop making assumptions. There is nothing more frustrating than being approached by someone who has never had any previous interaction with you and being subjected to an onslaught of completely baseless and inaccurate preconceived ideas of who you are or should be. No two persons are the same and creative individuals are not exempt from this. Everyone’s personalities, concepts, processes and outcomes are unique to the individual. If you are trying to make an introduction consider saying this instead: “So tell me about what you do.” This gives the person the opportunity to definitively establish the parameters of their work and prevents you from embarrassing yourself by peddling played out stereotypes.
2. Keep the condescension. We speak English like every other Guyanese. There is no need to slowly enunciate your words. You don’t need to “dumb down” anything when speaking to us. Further, it is rude to not even try to contain your surprise at the fact that we are widely read. Contrary to popular belief, we are not mindless robots who churn out “pot boilers” and are completely uninformed about world events. We are well aware of what goes on outside of the tiny LCD screen that is our smart phone. So the next time you feel yourself about to exclaim a variant of: “Wow! I had no idea you were so smart!” consider all the other ways you can say that more intelligently. Also our sarcasm detector is top notch, so I’d think twice before employing that as a means of one-upping us.
3. Make your pitch and make it fast. Yes we are impatient and yes our attention span is especially short but only because we are products of a system that was designed that way. Our hectic schedules don’t usually allow much time for small talk, so if you feel like you’re being rushed, you probably are being rushed. This is not because we’re trying to be rude. Most times we’re genuinely trying to accommodate everyone by dividing the time equally. And while it’s often well intentioned, it doesn’t always work out in our favour. Be cognizant of the fact that we’re probably drowning in deadlines and running on very little sleep. Those are all major contributory factors of our frayed nerves. It’s really nothing personal.
4. Stop trying to bargain with us. I’ve never heard of anyone bargaining to get a discount on his or her hospital bill (although I could be wrong). Why persons would think it’s okay to try this with creative practitioners is beyond me. A solid art education could cost as much as a prime plot of land in Guyana. There is an old adage that says “time is money” and this couldn’t be more accurate for creative practitioners. We spend years pushing our mind and body through the mill, trying to make it out of art school with all of our faculties in working order. One would imagine a fairly smooth road after graduation. One would be mistaken. We spend countless hours perfecting our work, often forsaking our physical and mental health just to get our jobs done. So the next time you enquire about an original work of art under $5000 and you observe the baffled look on our face, consider all of the above.
5. We are professionals. The absence of a crisp business suit or pencil skirt is not, by any means, an indication of a lack of professionalism. The varied nature of our work requires us to be comfortable for the sake of efficiency. While it’s probably doable, stretching and priming canvas in four-inch heels is not very practical. We do have a separate wardrobe for our hands-on work as well as “good clothes” for our more business-oriented meetings/interviews. The challenge is always keeping our “good clothes” free of paint, stain, dye, contact cement etc. but we try our best. This is an occupational hazard that should not determine how seriously we are to be taken.
Although I’ve covered some of the major areas of contention, there are still several lengthy additions that could be made. However, I think this is a good place for everyone to start dismantling stereotypes about creative millennials in an effort to make the world a better place. #millennialsmatter
Dominique Hunter is an independent visual artist who recently graduated from the Barbados Community College with a Bachelor of Fine Art (First Class Honours).
This article was first published in the Pepperpot magazine of the Sunday Chronicle newspaper on April 10, 2016. Click on the link to be redirected to their website: