“Imitation is the highest form of flattery,” but what should be tagged on to that saying is, “Credit must be given to where credit’s due”. Artist and urban planner, Chris Devins learned this lesson the hard way after erecting a mural of former First Lady Michelle Obama in Chicago.
The artwork was created after Devins garnered the funds from a GoFundMe in which he asked donors to “celebrate Mrs. Obama’s life and accomplishments during the last eight years as first lady of the United States.” The campaign raised over $11,000 and the mural went up across the street from where Obama attended elementary school.
Problem was, the mural design came from a graphic design created by artist, Gelila Mesfin who was never acknowledged or compensated for the use of the image.
“How can you just steal someone’s artwork,” Mesfin said on Instagram captioning an article covering Devins’ project. “This man seriously created a GoFundMe page, raised money and did this… it’s one thing to share or even profit from someone’s work but to claim it as yours is just wrong!”
Adding, “I wouldn’t mind if he had given me credit or said he took the design from another artist but saying you designed it is just wrong! The man is a teacher for God’s sake and said he was doing this to create positivity for his students and community… but he didn’t think that stealing a young girl’s artwork and making a profit out of it does more damage than good.”
Quickly, the internet responded and Devins acknowledged Mesfin’s statement.
As published on DNAinfo Chicago, he apologized, said the mistake was “sloppy” and clarified how he obtained the photo— Pinterest. He also posted a message to Twitter— although (no shade) he spelled Mesfin’s first name incorrect.
“For me, this is a time of learning and self-reflection, not justification,” he says. “Though I did not receive any funds based on Ms. Mesfin’s work, I was granted money based on a socially responsible message about Black women.”
On Sunday Mesfin said on Instagram that her and Devins were “resolving the issue in an applicable and professional manner,” which hopefully means a check will be run her way ASAP.
Watch our interview artist, Gelila Mesfin, above.