What’s the Good of Art in a Pandemic?

When everyone is sick, or dying, or unemployed, or at risk, who thinks about making art? What does it help? What good does it do?

The temptation is to focus on health and well-being, survival and being able to eat. Those are the right priorities. However, art has a secondary role to play, I think. Mental health is health. If you are stressed and depressed, you’re more susceptible to infection. Those are established facts. What art can do is reduce your stress and depression. That might be a wise thing to do.

Creativity is an expression of a life force. You create; therefore, you are. When the crisis finally ends, we’re going to need documentation of what just happened, so that those left alive and their descendants can learn from our history. Writing, critically, will be important.

Creating something of lasting beauty, which is enduring, serves as both a monument to the better instincts of the human species, but also as a distraction for both the maker and the viewer that experiences it. Art is an expression of human solidarity, to show that we truly are all in this together.

More than ever, we need effective narratives for social change. The storytellers among us need to craft their messages, using their most effective media, so that we don’t approach the next crisis as woefully under-prepared and leaderless as we have this crisis. While people cling emotionally to the idea that their leaders are doing their best, under very trying circumstances, mainly to comfort and soothe themselves, an objective reading of the performance of our leaders is far less favourable. They have made unconscionable errors, for very poor reasons. It will, no doubt, cost lives.

What can art do about any of that? Well, ideas for a better, brighter world are abundant, but vehemently opposed by those that currently enjoy privilege, under the existing arrangements. Getting those ideas out there at least provides people with hopeful alternatives and new perspectives. What we’ve never yet solved is how to change minds, when they are used to the comfort of their own entrenched, stubborn, intransigent, wilful, determined stupidity and ignorance. Art can make change an irresistible proposition. It must be worth a try.

We know that when disaster strikes, professional lobbyists go into overdrive, to gain exemptions and special consideration, from governments. Why shouldn’t artists also go into overdrive to counterbalance that power and money grab? Maybe that’s our last genuine line of defence.

Art can be social glue, when it’s shared. It can create community spirit, comfort and soothe the anxious. It can stave off cabin fever and boredom, while everybody is locked down. Art can make everything seem not quite so bleak. It’s an expression of hope.

Nobody will hate you for not creating art, in a time of pandemic, but everyone that somehow manages to do so will, one day, receive gratitude. History teaches us that much.

Save lives, stay home and try to make art, if you can.

About tropicaltheartist

You can find out more about me here: https://michaeltopic.wordpress.com/. There aren’t many people that exist in that conjunction of art, design, science and engineering, but this is where I live. I am an artist, a musician, a designer, a creator, a scientist, a technologist, an innovator and an engineer and I have a genuine, deep passion for each field. Most importantly, I am able to see the connections and similarities between each field of intellectual endeavour and apply the lessons I learn in one discipline to my other disciplines. To me, they are all part of the same continuum of creativity. I write about what I know, through my blogs, in the hope that something I write will resonate with a reader and help them enjoy their own creative life more fully. I am, in summary, a highly creative individual, but with the ability to get things done efficiently. Not all of these skills are valued by the world at large, but I am who I am and this is me. The opinions stated here are my own and not necessarily the opinion or position of my employer.
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3 Responses to What’s the Good of Art in a Pandemic?

  1. Janet says:

    Thanks for this, Michael. I’ve always believed the only people who will ever really change the world are the creatives. The rest just repeat the same thing with what they think are creative twists. Only the highly creative, creating their art, stories and ideas can really come up with something new. Will this be the time the creatives finally get to instigate change? Who knows. But they will be the ones telling the stories – through art.

  2. aeireart says:

    Hey there! I found your blog through a google search for opinions around the perceived lack of value of art. It was a joy to read. Creativity is so powerful that is must be undervalued because it isn’t a commodity that can be easily purchased or learned. Good stuff! Have a lovely day!

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