189: The power of dreams

One night I had a dream. And the dream changed me.

Like most artists I have drawn since I was young. My earliest dream was to be an artist although I had no idea what being an artist entailed. One of my earliest memories is helping my dad make a fence. For some reason I asked him what prejudice meant. He explained the word in the context of civil rights. While hammering nails my father told me of defying Jim Crow laws while he was a soldier stationed in the South after World War ll. Like many Americans I was raised to respect all people regardless of race or creed.

Despite my upbringing I never identified with the civil rights movement. I thought it was an issue for States to work out on an individual basis. I could envision no role for me to play. One night several decades ago I dreamed I was an African American. In the dream no one would listen to me. I went from place to place trying to express myself in complete futility. The reason people ignored me was the color of my skin.

Previous to this dream I made no effort as an illustrator to include other races in my illustrations. This was not overt racism on my part but rather a lack of empathy caused by profound cluelessness. After the dream I felt a focused obligation to include other races in my illustrations. I didn’t become a political activist–that’s not my nature. But after the dream I never allowed any racist comment or insinuation to go unchallenged in my presence.

Art is imagination made tangible. Art is a compelling force if imagined with enough vitality and clarity. In the communication revolution those who communicate best prevail.

Artists live in the world of dreams. That is not a position of weakness. It is not a position of powerlessness. Our job as artists is to imagine a more beautiful, more interesting, and better world. That dream has the power to change us–and to change the world.

Brad Teare–September 2014


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Updated: 20th June 2024
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