Artists in Isolation: How the Pandemic has Changed the Art World

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Art is a universal truth that breaks boundaries and builds bridges. It is an intimate form of self-expression with the ability to inspire countless numbers of people, whether it be in a visual, performing, or literary form; art is the embodiment of the artist’s mind and soul. Audiences interpret these works using their own opinions based on personal experiences and tastes. Specified within the art world, there are always pieces in different forms of media (such as music, movies, paintings, etc) that influence an individual on a deeper basis. This ability to speak to hundreds using a personal medium has been a great casualty of the pandemic. 

COVID-19

Artwork by Dorothy Knutson

Growing up in New York City, I have always held an appreciation for the accessibility and abundance of art in places such as museums, concerts, and especially Broadway. Despite never really identifying as a Broadway “fanatic,” I have always admired the effort and energy that goes into cultivating and creating iconic shows which people from all over the world travel to see. Unfortunately, as COVID-19 has impacted the United States in the past year, and subsequently New York City, the artistic world has faced extreme financial difficulties due to the absence of live performances and exhibitions to provide funding. For a year, there have been few opportunities present for safe live performances.

Despite plans to reopen later this year, along with hopes of the vaccine combined with other safety precautions contributing towards the revival of the artistic world, the effects of COVID-19 have been extremely detrimental to artists overall. Without a backup plan or sound government funding, many have been deprived of financial support and assistance. Broadway’s actors, musicians, and technical workers have been out of jobs since the industry shut down on March 12th, 2020. Likewise, musicians are struggling due to most of their revenue coming from performances; streams are not a sufficient source of income for musicians either, considering Spotify and Apple Music pay about .03 cents per stream on a song. 

As an aspiring artist, it pains me to see the hardships that many are facing during these stressful and difficult times. Art has the ability to heal, connect, and inspire. People use art for two different reasons: escapism and expression. On one end of the spectrum, it allows for people to relax and lose themselves within an abstract vision; illusions meant to distract from reality. On the other end, the raw truth portrayed through individualized interpretation creates a healthy outlet, impacting audiences beyond the fourth wall. If anything, it is more important now than ever to embrace artwork that has helped empower and inspire so many of us. 

However, artists are innovators. Because of COVID-19, I have witnessed firsthand the ways in which artists can and have successfully adapted to a virtual world. While going to an arts school and majoring in drama, my peers and I have had to modify our personal routines to adjust to using Zoom for our classes and communication, which have led to difficulties on our ends. Despite this, we are determined to put in the effort to get the most out of what is available to us. Many performances are being filmed, live-streamed, or even fully held via Zoom or other virtual platforms. Concerts now go “live” on YouTube; artists find new methods of grabbing their audience and fans’ attention through using social media. Many are taking this time to further fuel their passions and ideas to create within their respective fields. 

Despite the financial obstacles present for artists during the pandemic, I truly believe that once the pandemic has subsided, a new era of artistic culture will arise, utilizing the newfound advantages of the virtual world hand-in-hand with live performances. The art created will reflect the struggle, the determination, and the companionship during quarantine, pushing forth to survive during the pandemic. Artists who continue to pursue their passions, and overcome ways to help secure a form of financial stability for all artists, will be engraved within the books of history through their creations.