Timmy Ham, artist, talks about how he first got started out with painting Vans kid's shoes at the Art and First Amendment lecture on April 10. "It is crazy to see how you can go from painting shoes to working with other companies," said Ham. 

Timmy Ham, a professional street artist and entrepreneur from Phoenix, Arizona, spoke to students and staff Wednesday morning in the Agronomy Hall. Ham told the audience how he has used social media to further his brand and his art.

“I was there at the start of social media,” Ham said. “As an artist, I used it to get business and to create a brand for myself.”

With more than 500,000 followers across social media, Ham has been recognized by large brands as a leader in street art. Ham has worked with companies such as Red Bull, Pepsi, Lexus, and Uber. Through his following on social media, Ham won the 2017 Best in Art Shorty Award.

“It’s crazy to see how you can go from painting shoes to working with Lexus,” Ham said.

In honor of First Amendment Day’s, mediator Sherry Berghefer asked Ham his opinion on the relationship between street art and copyright.

“Always have a written agreement,” Ham said. “Otherwise, it’s he-said, she-said. In those situations, bigger brands usually come out on top. Copyright protects the creator.”

Ham offered advice for aspiring creators.

“You learn to grow with your work,” Ham said. “As it gets better, so do you.”

While there are negative stigmas surrounding street art, Ham says real estate owners know the value of the art on their building.

“Someone can have a cool building, but if an artist comes and adds to it, people might go to take pictures there and it draws in foot-traffic, “ Ham said. “These artists are creating landmarks.”

Companies such as H&M and GM have been under fire for using smaller creators artwork in advertisements without giving credit to the artist, and public figures like Ham have begun to notice.

“It’s really cool that with social media, smaller creators can call out these large companies,” Ham said. “With the rise of social media, everyone has a voice.”

Ham also talked about the “gray-areas” surrounding what is protected under copyright and what is not.

“Sometimes it’s hard to make that distinction,” Ham said. “There is a really fine, gray line between what is right and wrong. The problem comes when companies try to make money off of smaller creator’s work.”

Ham will paint a live street art demonstration at 11 a.m. Thursday outside of Curtis Hall.

This event is part of First Amendment Days. This year marks the 17th year of celebrating the first amendment at Iowa State. The week is meant to celebrate first amendment freedoms, religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition.

First Amendment days are organized by students and staff at Iowa State and include a variety of events such as lectures, forums and panel discussions exercising the First Amendment.

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