At the risk of romanticizing the pandemic, I would be remiss to not take a moment to acknowledge the brilliant way artists across the globe have been able to pivot during this time of social, financial and psychological crisis. Since I reside in the nation with the highest number of Coronavirus cases (and subsequently, Coronavirus-related deaths), it is all too easy to see the crippling disparity that plagues our society in the face of a once-in-a-lifetime event.
And yet, there’s a part of me who can’t help but mark the light in the darkness and remind myself that the beauty of the human spirit is not so easily extinguished. And in no other area has this been more evident than in the world of arts and culture.
Over the last 8 weeks, from my cozy flat in northern New Jersey, I’ve had the privilege to take part in or witness some truly amazing creative works thanks to the power of modern technology, human resilience and economic opportunity. Whether it was in the form of a virtual happy-hour hosted by The Belladonna‘s contributing cast of comediennes and humor writers or the soul-stirring adaptation of master thespians in an online Theater of War production of Oedipus Rex , artists of all shapes and sizes have managed to find or create an outlet for their craft or worked to refine it.
I owe a great debt to social media and the iconoclasts I follow as they capture themselves cultivating their skills on the slide guitar; adapting their photography to work around the confines of home isolation; and gathering together-apart to create a dance performance in their individual homes through the grace of technology.
I know that many in arts and entertainment are hurting at this time, especially those who rely on live performances to make a living. This is why it’s not only important to support these bearers of our mental coping techniques by purchasing their wares, signing up for their classes, and donating to those charities that help them keep the lights on, but to also remember them and the role they played in our lives when we sought solace away from the daily onslaught of political news and pandemic updates.
That’s not to say that millions aren’t struggling who don’t work in the field of art, culture and entertainment, but when this moment in history is in our rearview, let us not forget those in our society whom are often told to “get a real job” or are asked to give away their hard work and talent for free and how much we leaned on them to help us make it through. Everyone in our global family has value, and every person deserves to see that value supported by an economic system that guarantees equality, opportunity and prosperity. (Remember when we used to care about prosperity.)
In the end, it doesn’t matter if you’ve finally made a sizable dent in your home library’s TBR pile, binge-watched all 5 seasons of Schitt’s Creek on Netflix in one week, or spent a relaxing evening enjoying the dulcet tones and positive vibes of Ms. Erykah Badu vs Jill Scott’s Instagram Live “battle.” More than likely, artists in one way or another have made your quarantine experience a little more bearable.
And if you are an “essential” worker or someone who works a job that cannot go undone less you face eviction or worse, your connection to art is no less profound. Who is in more need of the therapeutic effects of art and entertainment than those who risk life and limb every day to see that our society continues carry on, even if it is at a more deliberate pace?
It may seem so obvious that it doesn’t need to be said, but I believe we can move forward in the coming months, years, and decades with the understanding that the creators in our culture fill a major role in keeping us mentally well and connected to our collective experience. And it is not an overstatement to view their part in humanity’s tale as, indeed, essential.
That laughter, those tears, that swell of emotion whether it be pride, sadness, joy, reflection or something else altogether is the tie that binds us. As we struggle to stitch our new normal together from the remains of our old status quo, I say let’s remember the artists, and never take for granted the value in our lives they create.