Sunday, July 5, 2020

ART IN TIME OF A PANDEMIC


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Kathe Kollwitz

"In our present day, it can be easy to conclude from the various crises taking place around the world, all the injustice and political unrest, the rampant poverty and environmental threats, persecution and killings, diseases and displacements, that art and beauty are mere luxury. It could even make some feel that to focus on art and beauty is insensitive or shortsighted. However, I want to suggest that it’s precisely because of these desperate situations that the artist is called upon to beautify the world with art and engage these issues from a vantage point of hope.

The desperate situation in our world calls for the artist to emerge as a prophetic voice for change and to offer heaven’s alternatives. I’m reminded of the example of Iraqi cellist Karim Wasfi, who countered the tragedy of war by playing music at the sites of car-bomb explosions, with smoldering buildings in the background of his concertos. Wasfi said, “The other side chose to turn every element, every aspect of life in Iraq into a battle and into a war zone. I chose to turn every corner of Iraq into a spot for civility, beauty, and compassion.”
This is the call of the artist in collaboration with God: we are called to be the architects of hope and to counter the destruction of life with the opposite spirit in beauty and creativity."
                                                Stephen Roach , founder of The Breath & the Clay, a creative arts community                                                                        exploring the intersections of art, faith & culture.


Let’s face it, the coronavirus pandemic, with the continuing rise in cases and deaths, has shaken us to the core. My friends call, people I do not know email or write for prayers, just to reach out or be comforted.

Chinmaya Br- India
In these times of uncertainty, art can be a steadying force. When a work of beauty, be it a poem, a painting, a piece of music, or a great novel , we are reminded of the ability to create in the midst of crises and suffering. It is said that Shakespeare wrote King Lear during the plague.

The creative arts sustain our spirit as we make sense of what’s happened and try to find our footing again in these troubled times, as we are moved inward, to the space of our thoughts and imagination, a place we have perhaps neglected. Of all the necessities we now feel so keenly aware of, the arts and their contribution to our well-being is evident and, in some ways, central to those of us locked in at home.


 Why art in these times? Aren’t there more important things to consider and reflect upon? Art allows us to examine what it means to be human for it is eternal.  It allows us to give expression to our thoughts and feelings, be it from suffering or from joy.  Art helps us process trauma, express difficult feelings, and work through experiences. Through art, we feel deep emotions together and are able to process experiences, find connections, and create an impact on the culture and society.

Louis Betts- USA- 19th C.
Art educates and inspires, and prompts our imagination to assess things and circumstances in a new and alternative light. Art can destroy barriers that divide people and can identify serious issues that we must address, both individually and collectively. It empowers us to see beyond that which may erode our growth and creative core. I think of all the graffiti which springs up in all our cities, especially in times of unrest.

Clement Tsang- Hong Kong
Art of any kind be it visual arts or the written word, or music, reminds us that we are not alone and that we share a universal human experience. During this dread virus we have had examples of opera singers sharing their gift to their neighbors from their balconies, or groups getting together across the world via zoom (or whatever).  

Art has been  proven to reduce stress. There are countless studies showing the physical and mental benefits of making art and studying art be it writing, composing or painting.  So get busy and write that opus which will change the world!


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