Last month I received a call about designing a special space for Donald Trump’s inauguration today. Trust me... I know what you’re thinking...
Here are the details that I remember presented to me- Trump’s team was organizing a VIP candlelit dinner with a private performance somewhat adjacent to the Inaugural Ball for the night of January 20th. I was told they needed somebody with an ‘artistic touch’ to design the space.
I got off the phone and three words spun in my head - “OH MY GOD.”
I had so many questions. Do we do this? Do we not do this? What’s the backlash involved? What if somebody knows we’re doing it? How much money are we talking?? Is this a career killer??? How would I feel about designing anything for this man?? You know me, I got excited.
One simple phone call and boom! I found myself in a deep moral conundrum. I knew about all of the other artists (from various fields) that had been turning down offers to be involved with the inauguration. Suddenly, I had to take on these considerations on my own. I began to think about my work and my vision, and about whether doing something like this would compromise me as an artist. For sure, good people had to be working on this event. In fact, I knew some of them. And what if I were one of them? Do I think less of those who said “yes”?
My mind went off in every possible direction. I talked to many people. I thought about what good could come from something like this. If we did it, it might mean big things for me and my company. It would likely open up new doors and new opportunities. Having this kind of credit and experience in the political (and production) arena was no small thing. Having experience with security clearance, and Washington DC; all good assets to have as a business and for future education.
I started envisioning how I’d design the space (as my boyfriend told me for the 100th time “NO!”). But really, should I hate myself for even considering it? I’m a designer. It’s who I am and what I do. Could I think of this as just another design project?
In my mind’s eye, as I contemplated how I could execute but at the same time make a statement, I considered doing something brazenly tongue-in-cheek. This is Donald Trump we’re talking about. How about over the top GOLD, froufrou, glitter, brass?? I would go THERE!! Like Louis XIV Versailles. I would go EXTRA!!! I would want people to NOTICE it was extra. I would create Liberaci’s gay drag closet!!
Clearly, I tussled with this for days. And, fast forwarding to inauguration day, I’m here in LA because the job ultimately went to another designer... But right now, I can’t help but feel grateful for having received that initial call. This was a fascinating, seemingly one-of-a-kind artistic and moral road for me to explore, both internally and with my peers. It brought important questions to the forefront of my consciousness. I had to ask myself who I wanted to be as a designer, and what I wanted my work to stand for. As artists we must cherish these opportunities to reflect on why we do what we do, and how we can best serve our own artistic integrity while serving others too.
As we push onward into 2017, let’s remember to ask ourselves these questions every day.