Being an artist in the time of a Pandemic
We all know what is happening in the world right now. If you don’t, I am not sure what rock or island you have been on, but may I join you?
Seriously, this has been a hard year all around. Children sent home from school to learn at home which previously had been a place where they could chill; teachers trying to figure out how to guide students and parents through the material while trying to learn Zoom and an online system for teachers and students (and some missing hugs and high fives); employees sent home to try and figure out how to do their jobs remotely, navigate Zoom, remember to wear pants; people suddenly without jobs and having to navigate unemployment sites; , performers without a stage or a venue to shine in; dogs and cats trying to figure out why the human is still here (ok, maybe just the cats); and debating which masks is the best protection or finding toilet paper (seriously people! How much do you need?). Whatever it is, it is scary and uncomfortable.
Where do I fall? I was lucky. I teach so I continued to teach while learning how to do it online. I teach adult education. Easier? Not really. We’re all navigating it together. However, I am still an artist. And most of my income comes from the sales of my leather goods. Because I teach, I can’t get unemployment to make up the loss of income from my lack of sales. Because I have an income from another source, I don’t qualify for many of those programs out there for artists and small business owners.
I’ll admit, when this started, I thought it would get under control quickly. People are smart. They will listen. I watched my craft shows and festivals cancel one after another. First my show in April that is my kickoff for the year. Then May’s 3 shows. Then June. Then July. One of my venues tried to offer later dates for the cancelled shows, but that canceled with one week notice. I have watched my friends drive across country to a venue because they were under the impression it would open, only to have the county say no; you cannot open safely.
As an artist, I have been depressed. I honestly have had no desire for over 3 months to work on product. No desire to create. I don’t want to spend money in the hopes that a venue will open. I am scared to spend it because what if it doesn’t. And how do I pay to get there if it does? How to I feed myself when I am miles from home and staying at a campground or hotel? How do I pay for gas? How do I pay the people who come with me because they too need to earn an income? See, fear and worry because of Covid. Fear and worry because this shouldn’t have lasted this long. Fear and worry because adults cannot listen and are so centered on their needs and wants, they forget the bigger picture. They forget it starts with one. One person needs to follow the rules and show others they accept the rules. The next person needs to learn from that first. Then the next. Think of that old tale of “Tell a friend, you’ll tell the world.” Unfortunately, one person decided it didn’t work for himself. That one person decided it was fake or a personal violation to think of others. So a different line of “tell a friend” started.
And the artist, performer, festival worker, barker, self-employed spirit, entertainer, singer, actor, too many to list are now in limbo. Some have managed to get assistance. Others are still waiting. Some have managed to find jobs and put themselves at risk so that a person can still get food. But they are still missing their passion.
As an artist, my passion is expressed in what I make and my joy comes from the love and appreciation I see when someone buys it. Right now, I have no joy in my art. I am having a hard time finding it. Only fear that if I do a festival, will that line that follows the rules be the person who sees joy in my art or will it be that line that line is there because they have been wronged by being asked to wear a mask, wash your hands, etc?
So what is the point of my ramblings, you ask? Think about what you are doing and saying when you let fear direct you. That teacher that you are yelling at because they think online learning should continue- they’re scared that your child will not wear a mask or wash his/her hands, and infect them and they in turn infect their families and so forth. That person who is reminding you to wear a mask when in the store is doing so because they are afraid of you infecting someone unintentionally and losing their job. That artist who is doing a live performance via Facebook needs you to watch it and tell them how much you appreciate it, and even throw a few bucks their way. A person sharing their latest creation on Instagram needs you express your joy in seeing that and maybe sharing it because someone out there will love it enough to buy it so that artist can work past the fear.
As an artist living in a pandemic I feel fear. I have been lucky that I haven’t gotten sick, but I have friends and family who have. And I have had friends who have passed due to Covid. As an artist living in a pandemic, I am trying to find my passion again. We’re all trying to find life again but we need to follow those rules for a reason. Let’s move pass the fear. The doubt. The misconceptions.
I miss hugs. I miss meeting new people. I miss my joy.