Art is the original response to isolation because it provides a connection without people having to be sharing the same space. Art acts as a go-between, conveying a story or feeling to the audience without the artist having to be present. With art, we’re all a little less lonely, even when we are the only ones in the room.
My livelihood has been gutted, and, unlike the banking-airline-cruise industries, independent artists aren’t “too big to fail.” There’s no bailout on the horizon, and unemployment doesn’t apply to me—the Department of Labor is too overwhelmed with regular claims to process freelancer requests. So I’m doing what I’ve done every day for the last 17 years of my art career. I’m looking carefully at the culture and mood that surround me, and I’m adapting.
With so many worried about paying bills, it’s necessary to promote affordable ways of supporting art. I’ve had a Patreon page for years, but the regular microdonations that I receive through this site have gone up since March. More people than ever are signing on to support what I do, and lots of people in my community are now giving me $10 a month instead of the $2 or $5 they used to give. What’s more, I’m making more art on paper than I normally would, because those pieces take less time and I’m able to keep the pricing more affordable.
This pivot towards affordability is effective, but only because individual Americans understand the value of art. And that means that, if there was more governmental support for artists, it would only be an accurate reflection of what Americans actually want.
Art is what’s getting people through the stay-at-home orders, and art is what will help us process our grief for the “normal life” that we will never have again. It will hopefully keep us from forgetting the mistakes that lead us to this terrible impasse and also help us imagine a new world!
Since 2003, Gwenn Seemel (gwennseemel.com) has made her living as an independent artist. Her work focuses on questions of identity and belonging, often expressed through portraiture, and it has been featured on Hyperallergic, Boing Boing, Newsweek, and Bust. Gwenn speaks regularly about creativity and culture, both locally and internationally—most notably at TEDxGeneva in 2014. Born in Saudi Arabia in 1981, Gwenn has lived most of her life in France and in the US. She claims Portland, Oregon as her hometown, and she currently lives on Long Beach Island in New Jersey.