Whether it’s Hopkins’ own Chris DeVona playing “For Me and My Gal” on a cornucopia of instruments, including a broom and Mountain Dew can, or a myriad of well-known companies offering live-streamed performances, creativity wins out. We may all be at home, subject to social distancing, and deprived of human contact, but the creative spirit is still alive, well, and ready to adapt!
The art world is reaching out and engaging with the community at large to bring humanity to this difficult time. For example, Lincoln Center is offering everything from pop-up classrooms for children to dance to music performances online. The Bolshoi, Paris Opera, and Tokyo Ballet Companies are all giving access to performances of different famous ballets. Closer to home, New Haven’s own Neighborhood Music School is using Zoom to connect with students and the school posts new videos every day to #ArtsLoveCompany. The New Haven Ballet has started free meditation classes. The Shubert Theater in New Haven is also trying to “stay connected” by inviting all to “create art or put on a show”; they will post the videos and photos. In addition, Zoom allows Hopkins’ Concert Band, Jazz Ensemble, and Concert Choir to meet and work together.
Although the performing arts have the ability to Zoom and video chat, the visual arts are equally as active. In March, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles challenged people in self-isolation to recreate their favorite piece of art using everyday household items. Featured in the set of submitted photos is a rendition of Johannes Vermeer’s The Astronomer. Zumhagen-Krause and her husband recreated it using a tray table, blanket, and globe. Another featured work of art is a copy of Vincent van Gogh’s Irises from 1889. Cara Jo O’Connell and her family created it with Play-Doh, carrot slices, and wooden beads
Individual artists, too, are responding with new creations. In the United Kingdom, Luke Jerram made a “beautiful” glass sculpture of the not-so-beautiful, albeit insidiously clever, COVID-19 virus. He created it as a tribute to the enormous scientific and medical effort underway to fight the pandemic. It is 23 centimeters in diameter (one million times larger than the virus).
In response to the unprecedented sacrifice healthcare workers are making to care for those infected with COVID-19 in Italy, Franco Rivolli of Venice painted a mural on the wall of the Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital in Bergamo, Lombardy. Masks are also becoming prominent features in new artwork. As shown here, masks were placed on existing statues in Daegu, South Korea. Although of no clinical utility, Croatian fashion designer Zoran Argovic made masks inspired by pop art.
Children are expressing themselves as they try to adjust to their “new normal.” This artwork, made by 10-year-old Tricia Lim from Petaling, Jaya, portrays the “earth combining forces with the medical fraternity to fight the COVID-19 virus.” Her work, amongst many other children’s drawings, is featured on a Facebook group called “Children Art for COVID -19.
Because traditional artists depend on an audience, whether in theaters, dance or music schools, concert venues, museums, or art galleries, their income is in jeopardy. New York City Ballet has cancelled part of their season, taking a projected $8 million loss. Broadway theaters have shuttered their doors, causing the loss of 87,000 jobs and $100 million for one dark month. Museums are closed to the public. NPR made several suggestions to help artists during the pandemic including: donating to emergency funds for musicians and their teams, joining live-streams whenever possible, and donating to favorite artists and arts organizations directly via their websites. The National Endowment for the Arts has also gathered a long list of organizations dedicated to helping the nation’s artists with access to healthcare and emergency funds (https://www.arts.gov/covid-19-resources-for-artists-and-arts-organizations).
There is no question that the art world, with the assistance of modern technology, is up to the challenge to lend its humanity to this insanely and distinctly inhumane pandemic. As the medical world braces itself and gathers all its resources to fight, the arts will cheer, inspire and help us work through the pain.