As the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Australia, the public health necessity of social distancing has had a significant impact on the economy, the livelihood of individuals, and has shaken up specific industries, particularly the arts. Despite heavy blows to the industry like worldwide museum closures and event cancellations, the arts industry has demonstrated its perseverance, creativity, and versatility by adapting to the circumstances. We have put together some resources for artists and those in the industry to help with coping mentally, connecting with your community, and ways to continue enjoying the arts from the safety and comfort of your own home.
Looking after your mental health
With so many changes occuring at such a fast pace, it is understandable for anyone to be feeling distressed, confused, or emotionally overwhelmed. Luckily, we have many mental health services in Australia that are still operating and whose staff are working hard to support us through this time. Both Beyond Blue and Lifeline have created simple fact sheets specific for coping with COVID-19 and its repercussions, including tips for maintaining your physical health during this time, how to connect with your friends and family, and strategies to cope with self-isolation or quarantine.
Headspace has created a resource for young people which includes advice on how to deal with typical feelings during this time such as fear, anxiety and frustration. They also have the e-Headspace program which offers free online support and counselling for people aged 12-25 and their families and friends. Another useful initiative for younger people to turn to is the Kids Helpline, designed to assist young people aged 5-25. You can chat to someone from the Kids Helpline by phone, email or webchat.
Among all of these resources, the common tips are to stay informed but take a break from the news if you need to, proactively take care of yourself by making sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising, reach out to people around you as much as you can, and always remember that help is available through these websites and organisations if you need it.
CONNECTING WITH THE ARTS COMMUNITY
With so many museum and gallery closures and event cancellations, the arts industry has been one of the hardest hit in the last few weeks. Showing how community-oriented and resilient the Australian arts community is, several initiatives have been set up for artists to lobby for government funding, track income losses, learn how to adapt to these new circumstances, and generally support each other during this time.
The Australian Arts amidst COVID-19 has been set up by volunteers across various arts sectors for artists and those in the industry to ask questions and share ideas and information on how to innovate and adapt to our new environment. ArtsHub has created a COVID-19 tab on its homepage, for stories related to the pandemic’s impact on the arts. These articles are free to view and include helpful guides such as How to apply for the Centrelink coronavirus supplement as a sole trader as well as news on how the arts industry is moving online such as the Digital art guide to beat coronavirus closures.
As far as reaching out to the government is concerned, the National Association for the Visual Arts has created an advocacy toolkit with simple actions that the arts community can use to communicate the impact of COVID-19 and the need for an economic stimulus. Similarly, Diversity Arts Australia is seeking input from creative sector workers and creatives of colour for its survey on lost work. This information will assist Diversity Arts Australia in advocating for the culturally diverse creative sector.
Embracing the virtual arts space
Many galleries that have closed to support social distancing measures have found creative online alternatives. The National Gallery of Victoria has a range of virtual tours, including its current exhibition KAWS: Companionship in the Age of Loneliness, an apt exhibition at this time, with the introductory statement saying “The work of KAWS reminds us that we need one another, and that in the face of fear and hatred we should aim to live as compassionately as possible to combat this ‘age of loneliness’”.
Connection Arts Space is also currently working to digitise our exhibition, ‘Riding the Cotton Unicorn’, an exhibition that seeks to explore the personal, emotional, visceral, physical and political experiences of the individual’s own menstruation cycle. We will share this virtual exhibition with you soon!
The virtual art space also opens up opportunities to visit galleries that may have otherwise been inaccessible, with many internationally renowned galleries entering the digital realm including the Musée D’Orsay and Louvre in Paris. The Google Arts & Culture is a great starting point for online collections from museums worldwide, as well as arts news, activities, and learning tools.
Despite the challenges that COVID-19 has presented to local and international arts communities, the industry continues to demonstrate its resilience by responding to these challenges in creative and innovative ways. Now more than ever is a time for connection, and we hope that these resources can help you to stay connected and feel supported during this time.