Coronavirus has evidently disrupted everyone’s lives in 2020. By November we have reached over 50 million confirmed cases worldwide. Having had to resort to lockdown measures, everyone has had to drastically adapt their living and working situations. For creatives, including artists, designers, curators, photographers and many more, the international spread of Covid-19 has seriously impacted the work we are able to do. However it has also provided a compelling opportunity to record the uncertainty our population faces while we are forced to return to the basics of living and surviving. Everyone has become cautious while leaving the house simply for essentials. Problems we used to face in our day-to-day lives seem extremely minor in comparison to worrying about whether our family members could catch the virus while simply stocking up on food.
It’s no news that the creative industry is one that has been hit the hardest since the pandemic. A lot of creative freelancers are known to have multiple jobs to support themselves. Since lockdown has been put into place, most of these ancillary jobs have been postponed, leaving many designers with no source of income.
With all major networking events, such as the arts festivals, being cancelled, creatives have been left with little opportunities to make vital industry connections that would usually lead to commissions or funding. This has resulted in creatives having to keep up an active profile, try to stay relevant and involved through online means and come up with an artistic response to the current events and issues. Unfortunately, there is no promise of this receiving a tangible reward however. And although many people have been able to find an audience online, there is concern that sharing this content online or even giving it away for free devalues their work and even their practice as a whole.
As a result, many creatives and designers have picked up new skills in an attempt to broaden their practice in new ways. They have found ways to respond to Covid and the pandemic as a means of keeping their practice afloat. Photographers have been able to interpret anxiety and survival during the period of Covid-19, designers have created a body of work regarding support for mental health during these difficult times, while others have created uplifting illustrations depicting day-to-day life.
Left to right: Hayley Longman (2020) / David Byrne 'A Balanced Life' (2020) / Matilde Corno (2020)
While there’s been many sectors in the creative industry that have been halted since Covid-19, it’s also given rise to discussion about the value of public spaces and the importance of its design. This might not be a new debate but the pandemic has made city councils reconsider its significance. Green spaces have been taken into greater consideration, as millions of people don’t have access to this kind of space within a 10 minute walking distance. The pandemic has brought these inequalities to light and therefore shows why the spaces we surround ourselves in are so important. Although size plays a vital part, they also need to be designed so that they’re healthy. So although coronavirus has most definitely hindered almost every creative in their practice, it has also created new opportunities and ways to expand creative careers.
The creative economy contributes to a huge amount to the cultural fabric of British society. It’s value is roughly estimated to be 13 million per hour. Considering it’s one of the fastest-growing sectors in the economy I feel as though the creative industries have been let down massively since the pandemic. Creative work is often in itself already underpaid and insecure and usually relies on good connections and investment in order to remain sustained. And still, even some of the major performing arts venues and museums are struggling to stay afloat.
I think it’s unreasonable that the government has left freelancers to suffer and fend for themselves in these unpredicted times. It will be incredibly unfortunate to see diversity within the arts being set back yet again due to creatives being driven out of the industry who don’t have a big enough network or resources.
Although I may be let down by how the government is dealing with this situation, the limitations we have had to endure due to coronavirus has also sparked creativity in many people. As everyone is forced to spend more time at home, it has been a common pursuit for people to turn to art, whether that be in the sense of interior design, baking or simply drawing. As creatives I find that many are happy to educate themselves in new fields that might be beneficial to themselves while we have to adjust to radical changes worldwide. I’m sure many people are in some way pleased to have ‘extra’ time to work on more self-directed projects that have been in the back of people’s minds but there never seemed to be enough time for them. I find it inspiring to see how different designers come up with creative ways to respond to the pandemic and incorporate it into their work. There’s a number of design professions which have been able to sustain their artistic ways even while confined and with enough support we can hopefully maintain doing so.
I know many people, including myself, who have struggled severely during lockdown. Luckily, most people I know have had part-time jobs as their source of income, which led to people being furloughed. Those that have been furloughed enjoyed the time off while still being on a regular salary. Some have spent extra time in studios developing projects, while others have discovered a new creative hobby to get stuck in. In a sense we’ve been lucky enough to delve into new interests of ours while still having stability. And being creative has led to the additional inspiration of being able to keep ourselves busy and entertained in a variety of different ways.
Illustration and Visual Media