Sunday, December 2, 2012


Plagiarism and the arts is a very gray area. It isn't as clear cut for the Visual Arts as it is in other disciplines. I think we can all agree that blatant copying and passing it off as our own is unacceptable. It is the influenced by, inspired by, and subconscious strokes of genius that create those "gray" areas we question. In a teaching situation, we often have students attempt to recreate the masters. It is how we learn techniques and process. We look to artists of the past and modern day masters for reference and to instruct our students on timeless themes and concepts...... but where do we draw the line of what can be considered truly influence and what is considered plagiarism? I spend a fair amount of time in my classroom discussing plagiarism with my students because of this, grayishness.

In an attempt to help students begin selecting their works and understand the quality that goes to competition, we look at slides of past artworks and online galleries of many competitions. It is inevitable that we will find an example of questionable plagiarism and sometimes blatant plagiarism. While it is a wonderful discussion and life lesson for my students, it puts a sour taste in my mouth thinking that an original artwork by a student somewhere was passed over for a plagiarized one.

This year was no different, we looked through the online galleries of one competition with strict guidelines on plagiarism. This time I had multiple students react to an artwork that was shown. They had all seen the original image on Pinterest. It led to a discussion on responsibility. Ultimately, my students felt it was the responsibility of the artist/student to inform and that they should voluntarily pull their work. The discussion was immediately followed by students pulling out smart phones frantically searching for any projects online that might resemble anything close to what they were already doing or had plans to do.

The question that remained however, was who...if anyone..should contact the sponsoring arts competition and inform them, do we as educators and artists have an obligation to inform them, ........or do we just let sleeping dogs lie?