Celebrating Artists, Diversity, and Pride

Blend Images/Adobe Stock

by Adobe Communications Team

posted on 06-11-2018

As we celebrate Pride Month, we’re thinking about the power of creativity to break-down stereotypes and change the world. When artists tell stories, they bring us into their lives, remind us that we’re not alone, and help us understand each other.

“If you look at Georgia O’Keefe, or Robert Mapplethorpe, or Freida Kahlo, all of them were telling stories about gender and sexuality,” says Cynthia Smith, senior content marketing manager for Adobe. “Every single day, art has pushed the boundaries on sexuality and gender. Even Michelangelo was doing it, and it was controversial at the time. These days, we’re pushing those boundaries even more.”

Cynthia is an artist. She’s a short filmmaker and musician who’s played nearly every type of music, from funk to country with some opera singing thrown-in for good measure. “I grew up knowing I was different, but I was in the Bay Area, so it was easier than it would have been in some other parts of the country,” says Cynthia. “Still, it influences everything you do every day, every decision you make. It’s like when you sit down to craft a song, and you realize there are so many songs about love, but they’re not gender-neutral. I’m bi, so as I started writing, I had to think, ‘What is my point of view?’”

“You only know what you know,” she adds. “But creative projects, like the show “Will and Grace” back in the 90s, for example, reflect lives people didn’t know were out there, and that makes a huge difference.”

Challenging stereotypes with character design

Creativity and storytelling from a diverse set of voices are essential to connecting people from all walks of life, to help us grow and understand one another.

Nathan Richards is a young Australian illustrator who’s using his work to challenge stereotypes. Nathan’s colorful cartoon-like characters unravel binary notions of identity. Take, for example, his image of a bearded man in a flowing floral outfit, a thought-provoking but seamless blend of stereotypically masculine and feminine characteristics.

Nathan explains why his art has the power to make people rethink: “I take a cartoon approach to infuse a sense of playfulness and lightheartedness that makes my characters approachable for a broad audience. That’s what makes character design so effective in changing minds: you can’t judge something that’s not real.”

For Nathan, the main message is simple: “We all share love. Labels are irrelevant.”

Telling the stories “Beyond I do”

The “Beyond I Do” campaign, a new project from the Ad Council, one of Adobe’s partners, and the Gill Foundation is pushing our thinking about gender and sexuality too, but with real-life stories. They’re bringing more awareness to the fact that, even though gay marriage is now legal in all 50 states, 31 states still allow people to be fired, evicted, or denied services because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Told through video, pictures, narrative, and people’s own words, the Beyond I Do vignettes show how everyday people face discrimination. The stories range from a successful teacher who was fired because of “questions about her sexuality,” to a family whose pediatrician refused to care for their newborn baby because of the parents’ sexual orientation.

According to Lisa Sherman, the Ad Council’s president, the project tells stories that are about our differences, but even more about ideals we have in common. “By sharing powerful and poignant stories, this campaign highlights the values we hold so dear as Americans, and provides a real opportunity to grow awareness and empathy,” she says.

“The Beyond I Do campaign is part of a huge groundswell that’s happening right now, from gender-neutral bathrooms, to Burger King’s Proud Whopper, and the Always Like a Girl campaign,” Cynthia says. “We’re seeing creative people reflecting the diversity in our world and documenting the human condition. We see our differences. At the same time, we see that we’re not all so different.”

Making space for fluid identities

All of these projects are part of a bigger cultural shift—we’re moving away from simplistic identities based on gender, age, race, and ability. More people are defining their own identities, and moving fluidly between categories. We see the shift in genderless clothing lines, more inclusive pronouns, ad campaigns with all kinds of body types, and even the recent trend of makeup-free selfies – all defy the old standards of beauty. Through these creative projects, people who don’t fit neatly into stereotypes become more visible, and we discover that what holds us together isn’t the categories we fit into, but our experiences moving between them.

As we celebrate our pride this month, we are especially grateful to all of the creative people who share their truths. For LGBTQ+ artists with more stories to tell, Cynthia has this advice: “The biggest thing is self-love. It’s our job to document the human condition, to tell the truth as we see it. Know that you are just fine the way you are. Don’t be afraid to tell people you are fine. Then tell your story so your voice can be heard.”

Show your support during Pride Month with Spark remixable templates and follow more from Adobe #DiverseVoices.

Topics: Diversity & Inclusion, Creative Inspiration & Trends, Community