superstar of culture

noun [ C ] / su·​per·​star of cul·​tur /

a cultural change-maker; a champion of all things arts, culture, and education-related; a leader within the arts and culture field; an individual that we can all learn from

see also: cultural superhero, cultural role model

  • Clare Murray

Ferren Gipson, the pioneer seeing art in our everyday lives

It is the discourse we share. The constantly changing interaction between our minds and meanings. And the tangled reflection of our whos, whens, wheres, whys, and hows.

Taken under the artistically-minded microscope of art-history buff, Ferren Gipson, it is not just our popular culture, but it is the work of a million and more artists making mini masterpieces minute after minute. When we slow down and tune in to its artistic qualities (quite literally via Ferren’s podcast, Art Matters!), it reveals its inherent beauty and intrigue. Whether it manifests in the devoted following of Dan Robbins’ pioneering paint-by-numbers idea, the fascination for Dr. Noah Charney’s study of forgotten art heists, the entertaining prompts of RuPaul’s Drag Race, or the excited controversy over Beyoncé’s historical art references in APES**T, popular culture is undoubtedly founded in and developed with artistic attributes. In popular culture, there are creators and consumers. There are emotions, attitudes, and truths being expressed. And there are stories being woven together.

All too often, though, we passively consume popular culture without thinking about or realizing the presence and power of art in our everyday lives. At a time when accessibility to art is high-concern for cultural institutions across the world, Ferren’s novel approach to honoring the art around us everyday is deeply deserving of our attention and applause.

Quite the Superstar of Culture for this reason (and for simultaneously balancing a career as an up-and-coming musical artist and a rigorous academic study of Chinese art history so as to be able to pass on her passions and knowledge to future students of the art world), Ferren has a lot of wisdom to share. Though it is hard to imagine how she finds time to fulfill all of her many superstar roles, she went out of her way to take a bit of time to reflect on her passions and purposes. Here is some of what she shared:

There is something transformative about your podcast, Art Matters. For me, after listening, art has become something even more tangible and understandable. It seems to be everywhere; it is behind nearly everything in our popular culture. How has hosting the podcast impacted your own perception and vision of the world?

I’m so glad you feel that way! That’s certainly the intent behind the series. Since starting the series, I’m always seeking to collect little seedling ideas that could blossom into an episode. Even though I’m not always thinking with my art historical cap, I may sometimes see something and register its potential artistic value more than I might have before.

What is your favorite part about hosting Art Matters?

Whenever I hear from a person who listens to the show it makes the work more tangible. My favourite part is knowing that there’s someone out there enjoying the episodes and learning something new.

When you reflect on the fact that you have inspired many individuals through your work, what inspired you to embark on the journey that has allowed you to do so?

If I’ve inspired anyone through my work, I feel very humbled by that. My intention with starting the series was to find an audience of people who wanted to look at art from a different angle – especially people who don’t necessarily feel like they ‘get’ art. If in doing that, I can be an inspiration to others, then that makes me want to double down on my efforts to be a really shining example!

What is your dream goal for yourself as a spokesperson for the future of the arts/culture/education?

I would love to write a book with a similar tone to my podcast. That’s my current biggest dream. Aside from that, I’m working on my PhD in art history and very much dream of being a professor.

Superstar snapshot: Ferren Gipson

Superstar strength: seeing potential and having ideas

Superstar secret talent: judging characters well

Superstar noteworthy quote: “you only fail once you give up”

(photo credit: Ferren Gipson)


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