Making art is a pursuit that inherently calls for a kind of social distancing. Visual artists, writers, musicians and actors often need to work on their own, so the regimen of isolation is a familiar one. But we’re in frighteningly unfamiliar territory. Distancing oneself has become more than a means of nurturing focus; it’s now a matter of life and death, for everyone.
Staying healthy and respecting the health of all in our community is paramount. But whether or not we do art, we also depend on macro- and micro-economic interactions that have come to a virtual standstill. And we don’t know where these economies will be on the other side of this curve, flattened or not.
Online arts events are being organized, and though they will pay worthy cultural dividends and could even be modestly monetized, that won’t pay the rent. For the Sunshine Coast’s hundreds of creators and the many hundreds more who appreciate and help support them, there are no exhibits, performances, screenings or gigs; no chance to share ideas or expressions or collect fees and commissions. And though it might be for just weeks, it could extend to months.
We talked to a few local artists about this sobering, but possibly inspiring new normal.
Musician and teacher Steve (Weave) Wright, The Soundspace studio, Sechelt:
I had planned on being closed during spring break and imagine I will remain closed for some time. Nothing is more important right now than implementing the instructions to stay home, stay clean and not spread the virus. My work is very social and personal and teaching online is not something I am interested in at this time. That said, I am planning on doing a series of live-streamed gigs and demos from the studio just to share with people in this troubling time. I am positive that this is a great opportunity for humanity to take a good long look at what is important and make some major adjustments. How could life go back to normal after this? What really matters?
Painter Marlene Lowden, Langdale:
The other day I had hit a real low. I was trying to do some watercolour stuff and just felt so bad... Then I remembered I was supposed to be teaching spring break classes this week and next at [Gibsons Public Art Gallery] and I thought, well, maybe I can do something to help people who are at home with their kids or just people at home who are feeling a little stressed like I am. That lifted my spirits, and I made a 10-minute instructional video. I posted it on social media and I put it up on the website and it’s been great, people have been responding to it. You don’t have to have fancy art supplies [to follow along with the video], it’s just to make something simple, more about getting your emotions out in a positive way. I’m going to do another one this week… It feels like it’s brought me back to what’s important. We all feel so helpless right now. (See videos at marlenelowden.com/art-resources)
Painter Christy Sverre, Gibsons:
I’ve noticed that I’m slower, I’m moving more deliberately, because I don’t have as many distractions. Before it would be like, “Oh, I have to meet somebody for coffee, or I have to go to the market.” Now I’ve got a different time zone I’m working in, and it’s quite pleasant. I must have been going too fast or something… What’s changed for me is just putting my head down and really working on the art, making my art even better. And working, working, working… I’ve sort of taken it in my head that this year is done. I hope Art Crawl [in October] works, I hope it happens. But this year might be just a very slow one. Can we just hunker down and wait, do our best to help us get rid of this [virus threat]? Maybe people will come out of this in a mood to buy more art. Maybe they’ll want levity and colour in their life.
Painter Motoko, Garden Bay:
In terms of working, I have my own studio and I just work there with my cats. It’s always been like that. It feels so lucky that I don’t have to commute, or I don’t have to feel worried about losing my job. What affects me is that I sell my original work from my own gallery open from July to September. I’m concerned that it might be a little different this year because there might not be as many people coming. I was going to have a big celebration exhibition at the end of June because it’s my 15th year this year. I am postponing to, I think, next year. It was disappointing but it was the right decision. It’s just not the right thing to do when nobody feels like celebrating. This is really heartbreaking to see so many people dying.