Protest by artistic, original thinkers can also be subtle. When the painter James McNeill Whistler was a cadet at West Point, he was assigned to draw a bridge in an engineering class. His inclusion of two boys fishing from the bridge displeased the instructor, who ordered him to draw it again without the young fishermen. Whistler did as he was instructed, but unwilling to completely stifle his artistry, he drew the boys fishing from the riverbank. Told he would still not receive a passing grade, Whistler handed in the drawing one more time, without the boys in the picture. But on the riverbank, as monuments to the death of creativity, stood two little headstones.
this is one of my favorite stories of all time; i remember hearing it sitting on the parade ground at west point during a warm july night lit by unthinkably brilliant fireworks. it was 1967 or so, and there was that great expanse of sky and lawn, and the towering stone buildings, and the hudson a stone's throw away. every bit combined to make some sort of magic event that can be hard to equal in memory. there was a kind of timelessness, maybe, that only children can truly grasp as being actually almost divine: the stars, the warmth, the sound of the river, the glorious bursts of light overhead, the comfort of family sitting all together. there was that certain feeling that time had stopped, that we sat together (all on a wool blanket and watching the night) in history.
listening to the story in a sort of rapture (someone read over booming loudspeakers), i recall thinking that that was just the sort of artist one should be. but the story, the story! it took me years to reconcile myself to the fact that the children on the bridge were no longer. still, to my seven-year-old mind, the breathtaking (and, i felt then, completely tragic) tale whistler illustrated in three genius-concise frames was the essence of storytelling.
addendum: it seems, reading a bit about cadet whistler's oddly carefree west point career, that he was perhaps not so much protesting the death of creativity as foreshadowing the demise of his unlikely -- and rather indulged -- tenure as one of the more disheveled members of the long gray line. [but this is only hearsay on my part.]