Sticky Questions on Cultural Appropriation
Cultural appropriation is one of the thorniest issues of our time, and there are no easy answers. Most of the greatest works of art-- not just in Western culture, but worldwide-- involve an attempt to understand another cultural viewpoint by "trying on their clothes", so to speak. Forbid this, and we lose Marlowe's Tamburlaine, Debussy's Ibéria, Sondheim's Pacific Overtures, Britten's Curlew River...
But there's certainly something to be said for hegemonic artists being sensitive to "interrupting" artists from less well-represented backgrounds in our cultural conversation. When we perform Gershwin, are we blocking William Grant Still's voice from the stage?
The Daily Beast has a thoughtful exploration of the question focusing on the current controversy over Dana Schutz's Emmett Till painting.