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Did Covid-19 redefine art?

Writing by Antonina Dolecka. Illustration by Bethany Morton.

Do you still remember museums? That mesmerising feeling of wandering through their corridors, admiring the pure forms of human creation. Do you remember theatres, sitting so close to another individual just to share three hours of a hypnotising journey, organised just for us? What can be nostalgic memories for many, are brutal consequences for others. When Covid-19 hit, everything went into lockdown, but not every job can be done from home. Estimates show that in the post-pandemic reality, UK creative industries might face a £74bn drop in income and around 400,000 jobs could be lost in industries like music, theatre and art in general.

Although some might disagree, I believe that art is the purest form of expressing our human nature. As Covid-19 made the world stop, the majority of us struggled to adapt to this new reality of spending way too much time with our own thoughts, with detrimental consequences in the long term. Art is an escape from this vicious circle; it can unite people and bring them closer, even if just metaphorically. It creates a safe space where nobody should be judged for their creations, just as nobody should be judged because they feel the way they do. Art can improve mental health, which has been a problematic issue for many during this pandemic - artistic creations have been helping us get through these troubled times.

Equally important is the role of art in fostering understanding between communities, while still allowing people to embrace their own cultural identity. Art, in all its forms, has the power to bring people together and strengthen their voices. The pandemic has shown how this motion of equality in art can be transcribed from theory to practice. Following the global movements against racial injustice, especially Black Lives Matter, some art galleries and museums took a long-overdue step towards widely-defined inclusivity. It covered, among many others, tackling elitism in the art world and emphasising the struggles of Black people in the fight for racial equality throughout history. Even though the art industry has had it tough this pandemic, it is being reborn with a powerful purpose of spreading accessibility and inclusivity.

These two concepts are especially important for small artists or those just starting their career in the creative field, as they could gain more recognition and appreciation for their work. Increasing social media presence and global social movements during the pandemic have made their mark on the art industry. It enabled previously underappreciated pieces by people of colour to receive the appreciation they deserve. Seeing art as a form of expressing one’s identity and lived experiences, more than ever before, also ensures that indigenous artists receive a proper recognition of their work. Each voice should be heard as valuable and important. When thinking about the recovery of art, we should think of it not only as a recovery of industry but of the act of creation itself.

Undoubtedly, Covid-19 has affected the work of artists, from actors to painters. Unsurprisingly, funding to support the arts isn't a priority for the current government. Artists might not be essential workers, although many artists do depend on a second job which would put them in this category, but art is essential. The perception of art has changed. It has earned more recognition and well-grounded respect, despite the difficulties it has faced at the current moment. However, it is sad that it took a global pandemic to appreciate art in new and empowering ways.

What is beautiful is that the art world, in all its forms, has been liberated. True, it experienced a massive fall almost a year ago, but as people have now seen how it can help them get through difficult times and express the otherwise-inexpressible, its recovery will be glorious.

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