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What artist Shepard Fairey and Android cofounder Rich Miner said about open source

The two spoke Thursday morning at an Arts + Business Council event at the newly opened Fillmore Philly.

Shepard Fairey and Android cofounder Rich Miner speak at "Free License," Oct. 15, 2015. (Photo by Mo Manklang)

It’s not often you see a music venue full of people, especially suits, in the morning. Thursday, at the newly-opened Fillmore, people gathered to hear street artist Shepard Fairey and Android cofounder Rich Miner at the Arts + Business Council event “Free License.”

Here are a few quotes/takeaways from this morning’s event, which featured Shepard and Miner discussing why they’ve made their intellectual property open to the public.


On releasing Android as an open source operating system

Miner: We realized it would be beneficial for the industry to have an open platform that we could then release into the wild and then other people could make their own works.

On the idea of open source art

Fairey: For me it was about creating a model of participation — it wasn’t just wanting a bunch of mindless disciples running around with my stickers, though I like that. Really it was about demonstrating how these tools could work. So free downloads, self-addressed stamped envelopes … the idea of encouraging participation was really important to me.

What the important thing is that the opportunity is there for people who make innovative things to bypass traditional barriers.

Miner: Open source is good. We should allow people to build systems. You let somebody put something up and it can be good or bad. The community then has to sort of deal with it.

Fairey: The internet has meant that people can learn about what other artists are doing, they can emulate, they can create imagery. I would say that it’s just a more accelerated version of how art works since the invention of photography and mechanical reproduction but the idea that there’s a huge amount of raw material for people to use is great but it also means that there’s a lot of stuff that isn’t high quality. The best stuff rises to the top and that’s the same with the apps.


(Photo by Mo Manklang)

On what it takes to amplify traditionally unheard voices

Fairey: It really comes down to tenacity — doing something great once, people might not notice — it might take five great things, it might take 100 great things. Nothing happens overnight. Even though there are those anomalies that make people think they can win the internet lottery.

Miner: The apps that are successful are beautiful as well. … I’d really like to see a lot more people focused on building something beautiful.

Fairey: I’m paraphrasing [Charles] Bukowski but I think he said, “A good idea is a good idea, a good idea rendered in a cool way can actually make shit happen.” That was probably a terrible interpretation.

Fairey: Some people say “it’s so much easier to be an artist now.” Well, maybe it’s so much easier to be an artist but because there is such a glut it’s just as much of a challenge if not more of a challenge to make things that are special. I love the democratization, not such a big fan of all the white noise. But at the same time so many of the things I’ve accomplished were not going through the regular hierarchies and channels so I’m grateful for the way things are now.


Attendees of the Arts + Business Council event at the newly opened Fillmore. (Photo by Mo Manklang)

Companies: Arts + Business Council of Greater Philadelphia / Google

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