Unless you have been living under a rock for the past month or so, you are probably desperately aware that our nation- and the world for that matter- are under a pandemic. The novel COVID-19, or Coronavirus, has spread into our country and turned this nation upside down. If you are reading this blog, you are probably reading it from home with ‘social distancing’ becoming the new way of life. During this period of quarantine and reticence, it has allowed me time to think and digest this situation that we are all facing together.
I started to think about a new train of thought. Instead of a nation that continues to update and inform on everything we cannot do, I am asking, or challenging everyone to talk about what we can do. And it just so happens that during nation-wide turmoil, one thing that will always be there for us is art.
In the late 13th and 14th century, the Western World (as we know it now) was going through brutal times. Aside from war, the world was battling a plague of their own. The bubonic plague or more fittingly named the Black Plague was wiping out Europe and Asia at a far more alarming rate. But it is the post-plague that I find the most exciting and optimistic about our current situation. The black plague sparked this great revival of people interested in the arts and humanities, a time where people were curious again, a time of great innovation, a time we call the Renaissance Period.
I am certainly not comparing our virus with the bubonic plague, but I do find that era to be very interesting in an almost metaphoric way. I think now is a great time to be in the world of the arts and humanities, for those of us involved with the business side of the arts, as well as those who are creators and innovators. I think that this is an opportunity to use the arts as they were best intended for, and that is simply making people happy. During times like this, with so many Americans stuck at home with nothing to do, low morale, and anxious about their futures, the healthiest outlet that we have is the arts. Reading books, watching a great film, writing a story, drawing or painting a picture, sculpting, reenacting your favorite Shakespeare scene, or even submitting a piece for the Matthews Community Art Show, are all things you can do right this second. And the best part is the art facilitators (people like myself) are here to help and keep this idea as alive as ever.
Just within this week alone, there have already been coalitions, clubs, and conference meetings all over the art world working on this very concept of how can we keep the arts alive. Personally I am already working with the Western River South Dakota Artists Cohort on how we can continue to give our communities as many art outlets as we possibly can.
We have already schemed some ideas like creating virtual concerts with our local singer/songwriters, having online arts and craft workshops for families to do at home, and just encouraging everyone to continue to create.
These are strange times, and often it is easy to let our minds wander to more pessimistic thoughts. But as cliche as it sounds, we really are all in this together. I am continuously reminded about how warm of a community we live in when I see people giving back and trying to help as many families as they can. The same goes with the art world, seeing all of these organizations scrambling to create these new ideas or initiatives really shows the beauty in the arts. I think for many of us, we have taken this as a responsibility to keep the morals of our community high.
So if you are reading this, I hope it helped calm those nerves and sheds some light at the end of this weird tunnel. Historically art has always been a strong coping mechanism, so I am challenging everyone over the next few weeks to try and create something, anything, it might just help. Stay safe out there, and this will all be over soon.