Leave fanart (and artists) alone

It is time to stop belittling fanart and talking down to its creators.
Fan-made art has been denied entry to the art world for years. It is considered unoriginal, uncreative and something its makers should be ashamed of doing. I am here to vehemently disagree: fanart is art, and it is time to stop pretending it is not.
First, let us clarify what I mean when I use the term ‘fanart.’ Fanart, to me, is any art made in reference to a work of fiction or a celebrity. It is also not just art in the traditional sense (like paintings or drawings), but fanfiction, fan-made songs, fan-made merchandise and everything in between.
Every artist finds their muse somewhere. Some find it in nature, some find it in experience, some find it in emotion. Fan-artists do the same, using the nature of a fantasy world, the experience of a character or even the emotions their favorite musician’s songs give them. Just because a fan-artist’s work has ties to another work (or another life, in the case of celebrities) does not mean it has less artistic value. Making art is hard enough as it is, but making art within the parameters of an already-established universe or similar to a real person’s likeness takes serious artistic talent. The ability of fan-artists to take what they see in front of them and dig below the surface and create new, refreshed content is unmatched.
Fandoms, the collective of fans for a person or body of work, run on fanart. It keeps engagement up and interaction high. People use their mediums to share their ideas and their hopes about the media or influencer they love. Fandom art is usually seen and circulated by fans around the world, exposing the artist to fans and the fans to the artist.
There are also lots of mainstream books, movies and shows that started as fanfiction. There are more obvious examples, like the popular Broadway musical “Wicked,” which was fanfiction set in the world of The Wizard of Oz. A lot of people heard that Anna Todd’s five-part book series, “50 Shades of Grey” (which later became a four-part movie saga) was originally written as Harry Styles fanfiction on the popular fanfiction site, Wattpad. The main characters of “50 Shades of Grey” were once named Bella Swan and Edward Cullen, because this trilogy was the work of a passionate “Twilight” fan before it became a hit for a best-selling author.
At the end of the day, fanart is just proof that someone loves something enough to spend creative energy on it. It has taken a step further when the artist is willing to share it with others – they are passionate enough to share with other people that are equally as passionate. That is what makes fanart truly art – it is made by people who care so deeply about something that they cannot help but take inspiration from.