Be Courageous and Create Fearlessly…

Fairey Inspires Lower School Students


Shepard Fairey

While Art Basel drew enthusiasts by the thousands, further north on our campus, world famous artist and graphic designer Shepard Fairey made an impression on some young children. After donating seven pieces of work to our school, Fairey visited our campus to discuss inspiration, passion and art with lower schoolers.

Curious 3 to 11 year olds pummelled Fairey with questions. “What is your inspiration?” “Why do you wear T-shirts with bad words on them?” “Is it illegal to do art on the streets?”  

Fairey explained the need for “challenging the establishment” and why confrontation was sometimes necessary, noting “… it’s important to challenge the conservative principles that keep things the way they are rather than moving things forward. Some of the music I listen to has (challenged) the establishment and that’s one of the things that’s inspired me in my art.”  Influences from music, politics, current events and other artists are often present in his own work and often prompt him “to use my art to make a picture I enjoy making but also say something to people that I think is important to say.”

Head of School Dr. John Davies, who spearheaded the installation on campus, thanked Fairey and noted the confrontational messages found in his work. “Much of his artwork is created to make the world a better place and have powerful messages– as he said to you sometimes he likes to challenge the establishment and that’s a beautiful thing. The world doesn’t get better unless people are willing to challenge the establishment.”

Fairey conveys political and important messages in his work by using “evocative and encouraging” words. Take the Dalai Lama showcased on the garage, for example.  He is seen as a symbol of compassion, but, as the artist explained to the children,  by writing compassion on the portrait itself, the attribute is further emphasized. “It’s an honor for me to have the artwork visible at the school and I think that when people live with art around them it can really remind them how beautiful powerful and important art is.”

Center for the Arts Director Terry Alfonso describes Fairey’s panels  as “an expression of our humanity and a central part of our mission.” Fairey reiterates that symbols in the panels such as the Dalai Lama, Martin Luther King and green energy capture the school’s core values (honor, respect, wisdom, and compassion.) When discussing the portraits of the Dalai Lama and Martin Luther King Fairey reminds students “The only way to overcome violence is to not participate in it.”

Fairey reveals his artistic goal to “Reach as many people as possible” and “impact the world and community.” He does this by “expressing what I’m feeling that I think a lot of other people might agree with but maybe they haven’t had the courage to come forward or haven’t had the right symbol to stand behind so when I speak out about things that I think are important for myself and the world my hope is that I’m placing a starting point for a conversation and something that other people can share that go go viral like a meme.”

Fairey suggests that young artists learn all the fundamentals and “apply them to your own unique vision to cultivate your own voice… art is not something you’re born able to do or not able to do. Art is something that I think anyone can do with practice, so never be afraid to make art.”

His enduring advice to the young minds of Country Day: “Be courageous and create fearlessly.”