Without question, the COVID-19 pandemic is halting fields of work globally. While there is certainly the benefit of this modern age allowing many workers and businesses to operate entirely from home, there are many who are barred from having their primary work resource at home- people. Every branch of arts are being affected in their own way, but those in the performing arts during the pandemic have found themselves high-and-dry income-wise with preventative social distancing measures put in place.
Now, thankfully, it seems that there will be federal endeavours to aid those who don’t qualify for traditional work-related financial aid, actors, musicians, and dancers being prime examples. So despite the plethora of concerts, plays, and film shoots being cancelled, performers can still get by without them and their audiences risking mass interaction. Canada intends to roll out an emergency financial aid program as early as the start of April. So taking an idealized view that artists will have some means to support themselves despite this limiting context, what changes for the performing arts during the pandemic?
On top of the very obvious implication of events being cancelled, it isn’t just the live aspect of the performing arts that have been stopped. Filmed and recorded projects, be they movie or music or voice work, also will take quite some time before they can come back. Many average recording situations are high-risk environments: large amounts of tech workers and extras convening in one area, a rotating number of people coming into small sound booths to record. Not to mention just how expensive projects such as movies and video games are; this is going to be a large blow to entertainment powerhouses, both with their current projects and pre-production ones that now need to be rescheduled. And these losses for those producing projects- and this point goes for gallery exhibitions, live-only performers, and countless other artistic branches- mean fewer opportunities for other artists to receive work as they try and play catch up.
So let’s put the money aside for a moment- because that is what many artists have invariably had to do. Let’s say we accept that artists are going to have less work in the foreseeable future in the wake of COVID-19. What does this current reality mean for artists right now?
The answer so far has been something beautiful and reaffirming. Artists of all levels of note have been finding ways to share their gifts with the public. There have been streamings, rough home recordings, online exhibitions, and general inventiveness galore. Countless regional groups have sprung up to offer local artists a group to share their talents with people who have been unceasingly supportive and loving towards everyone’s endeavours. Artists are taking this time to hone their craft, to create pieces that have been in suspended animation, to show the meaning of sharing art without a price tag being the first consideration.
While there is a very understandable ask for donations, there is a focus on connection through artistic means during these isolating times. People are telling stories to the lonesome; dancers are hosting classes from their living rooms via live stream; Yo-Yo Ma is spreading joy through “Comfort Concerts”. And not only is this time spurring professional artists to honour their work in a much simpler way- the public is valuing their endeavours and even using this time as an opportunity to chase their own artistic wishes. And that is a powerful good when one needn’t be focussed on giving all their time to a job that flickers no flame for them.
Times are uncertain for those who rely on audiences for their primary income. But there is some unique beauty blossoming for the performing arts during the pandemic. There is no discounting the importance of adhering to your region’s preventative measures against the spread of this disease. While the individual severity may not be as intense, it is to protect those most vulnerable and ease the burden of medical institutions and those needing them. Stay home, and see what gifts someone is trying to share with you from their end of the screen.