Art in a Time of Pandemic

When I was a freshman in college, I took a number of electives focused on philosophy and sociology. One of them featured a professor who, as an adjunct, taught primarily in the evenings. He opened every class session with a simple question: “So… what’s going on?” Our job as students was to bring relevant information from news stories to class for discussion. It was a great icebreaker, and when I was later working as an adjunct as well, I tried many times to replicate it. I was never successful. The fascinating part of the process was that he found ways to connect each story back to the subject for that day’s class. As I sit in now on day 16 of self-quarantine, I wonder what he’d make of the current philosophical conversations playing out in our daily lives under COVID-19.

Our class had minimal assigned books — he wanted us focused on current events and current statistics more than a textbook. The one I remember most clearly, and that still sits on a bookshelf downstairs, is In the Wake of the Plague by ____. In it, the author focuses on the impact of a plague communicated by (at the time) unknown methods in a time before germ theory. How it profoundly changed society, from freeing up more land and opening more opportunities for survivors to the impact on the Plantagenet control of a British empire. In hindsight, it’s not the most well-written book, but it was passable.

That said, I’m curious how our work will change in the wake of the pandemic. We’re already seeing a massive change in the general view of service industry workers, particularly those on the front lines of the supply chain in grocery stores, pharmacies, and fast food franchises. We’re recognizing the incredible shortfalls of our healthcare system. The governments at federal and local levels are scrambling.

So, with the world falling around us, how does one make art?

I’m a full time artist, and I make my money from commissions, art shows, festivals, and online shops. Right now, all of it has fallen through. This is the first month that I’ve made so little income. My business is too small for a bailout. Luckily I have family helping. But it’s rough. It’s humiliating. It feeds into my imposter syndrome.

At least I’m not spending money on gas?

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