Artists in the Face of Global Pandemic

I’m sitting at the one table I have in my home which serves as my desk, craft table, and occasional dinner table. It overlooks a rather usually busy street but on this Saturday morning, only a few are out. Joggers, one lady to whom I want to yell out of the window that she doesn’t have to feed the meter today, someone walking their dog.

I imagine that many streets are like this one week after the Coronavirus hit widespread in the US. Just last week I was in Boston facilitating a staff retreat at a University when participants began to get alerts about students being asked not to return after Spring Break. Less than 24 hours after that, staff was being asked to work remotely. I changed my ticket to fly back to NC that evening.

Everything is changing, in rapid time, for all of us: when and how we work, where and how our children learn, how churches and religious institutions lead worship. Our grocery shopping. Our staying in. Our social distancing.

It’s easy to get caught up in the panic and angst. How will we care for ourselves and each other? How will we be able to change, on the drop of a dime, our lifestyles and schedules? How do we manage now with different pay schedules, if there is pay at all? How do we work remotely or in isolation when our work is centered around participants, audiences, community?

Every industry is being hit hard, and without much warning. For artists and small arts organizations, the idea of a “slush fund” or cushion is just that – an idea. And so, it is only natural that we react and try and fix and go into overtime to prepare for what remains a precarious situation.

But, I want to remind you – artists and arts organizations—of what you already know, of the muscles you’ve already been developing. In face of change (funding, patrons’ removal of support because they didn’t like the last performance, hard choices), you have been agile, responsive, and resilient.

Though this is a bigger, global change in which the full impact is yet to be known. We’re knocked off course. We cannot make forecasts and predictions. We’re not sure of what we need to do or who we will be when we come out of this storm.

Yet, we move forward. Somehow, with everything we have learned on our journey so far, and with all of our hope, determination, and creativity, we take one day at a time with the hope that we’re all in this together, moving forward towards something better.

I was asked a few days ago what I thought we should do as artists in the midst of this pandemic. I know enough as an artist to say that it’s up to the individual to figure that out. But here’s what I would like to offer to one of the largest groups who thrives in the midst of change, and one of the largest groups that will be affected by this—

  1. Take this time to take care of yourself – your inner space from which your creativity rests and runs. It’s okay to rest. You don’t always have to be productive. Allow this time to be a gift to nurture yourself. Hopefully, soon enough you will be back there running from audition to audition, rehearsal to rehearsal, school to school, meeting to meeting. Take this time knowing that it will aid in you being better fit – mentally, physically, creatively.
  2. Don’t feel pressure to “rise to the occasion” as an artist. During this time, our community will look to artists to be healers and problem-solvers (which we are). But take a moment to remember that you’re going through this crisis Take your time to process your thoughts and feelings. Mull over what’s next. This is part of the healer/artist role.
  3. Reach out for help. Many people need external stimulation to create and to be well. Make sure you have a good core group you can reach out to. Set up Zoom or FaceTime chats. Stay connected as much as you need. There are also emergency relief funds for artists in need of financial assistance. Check with your local arts council as well as some of the organizations/funds you will find here.
  4. Keep a routine. This might be a good time to start a morning and/or evening routine, if you don’t have one already. Or an exercise routine. With no one knowing how long we will need to practice social distancing, having some semblance of normalcy helps to ground us and moves us forward.
  5. Be creative, even in isolation. This doesn’t have to mean create pieces of art, but it does mean keep your creative juices flowing. Take an hour a day to write, or paint, or play the piano – perhaps something that isn’t your first love. Watch a TED Talk or YouTube video. Take an online class (there are a lot of free ones out there) that will help you stay in touch with your creative impulses and learn something new.

 

We’re all figuring this out as we go. What may work for your colleague or peer may not work for you. That’s fine.

It’s easy, as artists, to go into fix it mode or to come up with answers. That’s needed and there is space for that. But it’s also important to take space for yourself, even with questions unknowns, and to a degree, trust the process as you trust your own creative process.

We are committed to helping you navigate these uncharted waters. We’re also interested in promoting the amazing work and strategies that are coming out of this pandemic. If you have questions, or want to share what you’re up to, please drop a quick note to aquizon@emcarts.org.

About
Jacinta White
Jacinta V. White is a Resident Artist and Process Facilitator with EmcArts.
Principal CEO of Deeper Dive Consulting, she spends her time working with a variety of companies and organizations assisting them in leadership development. Able to merge creativity into corporate training and group facilitation, Jacinta is sought after to build community and does so by listening, responding, and creating space for participants to safely share, learn, and enjoy the process.
A published poet, Jacinta is also the founder of The Word Project – a 20-year old organization that uses art to facilitate self-discovery and community healing, and is the publisher of the online quarterly, Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing.
Jacinta holds a BA in Speech Communications from UNC at Greensboro; a MPA in Nonprofit Management from Georgia State University; and several certifications in facilitation and training, including Understanding Diversity and Inclusion from Purdue University.