By Amy Kimberly
One of my favorite memes of this pandemic is, “Science will get us out of this, but arts will get us through it.” It does ring true, just as “Art Saves Lives,” but these are nice, neat sayings that make us feel good. What it really means may be a little messier.
While some artists have thrived during these isolated times, others have been stymied, locked up, unable to create. Some artists, especially musicians and performing artists, have lost their livelihoods, while others have found different ways to present their art and have forged new revenue streams. And then there are those of us who are fringe artists or don’t consider ourselves artistic at all. Where do we find comfort?
Are we tapping into our inner artist? Are we discovering talents that have been lying dormant? Are we tuned in to the many virtual performances running around this virtual world, filling our souls with all the Hamilton, Lizzo and Zappa that we can? The world is split wide open now. Our guts and goals, grievances and gratitudes spilled out, exposed and raw. We were not really prepared for this.
Finding your inner artist has its challenges. It can bring up demons from past times. It can seep a fear so big into your body you can’t move, or it can light a flame that grows higher and higher as inspiration soars. Either way, it triggers a healing, and a torment. Just like these times we are living in.
There is sweetness followed by sour. There is hope and light and love and there is despair and darkness. The unknown is lurking around every corner, yet this is the very thing that helps us find shelter. Beautiful paintings have been birthed from these times. Spoken word written to relieve stress. Movements composed to last centuries. These are the times that songs are written about.
As a spectator or engager of art, the senses can be filled, sated and sweetened. It can also crack you open. You never know. Every morning as I go to work, I pass a large mural of a folk-art mule deer; big eyes staring at me surrounded by bright swirls of color. I often stop and stare into those eyes, feeling the artistry seep into my body and this gives me strength.
Another place I seek out is a collection of old painted doors. It is filled with words of encouragement like “You Got This” and “You Are Beautiful” but my favorite, the one that fills me up with grit and determination is, “You Will Survive a Zombie Apocalypse.” It brings out my superpowers.
Ultimately, it is the process of creating or engaging with creations, that gives the world just a little more hope and happiness. It can make the day seem a little brighter because the belief that we are somehow loosely connected by a thread of color or a splash of song eases the isolation. Finding comfort in a random photograph can change a day from cold to warm. Staring at a piece of art so intently can take you worlds away. Sometimes escapism is the best escape.
Will the world get easier in the future or even harder? These are the unknowns. The questions that may spur one to build a delicate sculpture or write a poem so powerful. The darkness of a creative process is something we are sharing together as a planet right now. Often things get really messy in the creative process before they become great. We will survive a zombie apocalypse but not without pain and growth.
There is no denying that these times are like a glass picnic, fragile, yet beautiful. It can shatter at any moment, but, like a phoenix rising from the ashes again and again, we will write our own stories and find our own safe harbors.
Amy Kimberly believes in the power of art to transform lives. She is executive director of Carbondale Arts and the Carbondale Creative District. She has many a story to tell and misses live music the most right now.