For creative people in the arts – many of them free-lancers who live from gig to gig – economic stability and security are most often uncertain. Now in the midst of the current pandemic their financial challenges have increased thousand-fold.
A long-tem friend, an unemployed talented set designer and theatre teacher is “… mostly bored…going through the thousands of photos from my travels. I also participate in an occasional on line scavenger hunt with other artists and theater folk. It’s a lot of fun and it raises money for various causes…”
Now that the pandemic has become a world-wide crisis, freelance artists and even those gainfully employed by major orchestras, regional theatres and dance companies are all facing major life decisions: “Do I move in with my parents or friends or move out of the big city or even consider a career change…What can I do to survive?”
Another long-term friend – a terrific sound designer, sounds off a somewhat positive, though certainly realistic note: “Well, my work has pretty much stopped short. I haven’t been employed since mid-March… all my summer shows have been cancelled. I can’t say that I haven’t enjoyed the break however. Having 3 months off to decompress has…allowed me to reflect on what being a freelance designer means…Now that I’ve been home with my family for so long, I see how important that is to me and I will concentrate on a better work-life balance…”
Theatre, the most collaborative and multi-disciplinary of all the performing arts needs actors, directors, and designer-technicians like my designer friends.
Here is one of two enormously talented musicians: “(we) put together a 5-day virtual violin intensive – like a camp – a crash course on music theory, violin technique, sight reading, and more! The biggest unfortunate reality for us was being unable to travel… and visit my grandparents – something (we) have done every summer of our lives. Thankfully, they are all healthy and know how to video call!”
With great resilience and in spite of having lost three gigs – one of them an entire concert series that she directs, this young musician is grateful for a ‘drive by’ concert that a neighbor hired her for and for the opportunity to grow a vegetable garden.
These are just some of the stories about artist friends from the worlds of performing arts in which almost all activities can only be pursued along with others. Solo instrumentalists need a collaborative artist – a pianist or an orchestra or at the very least another instrumentalist. A theatre designer needs a technical staff to flesh out the artistic concept.
A gifted young man that we know and admire has lost his part-time work both as an accompanist to singers and as a music librarian, on top of his work playing for various churches around town. All of it is on hold.
An esteemed composer of our acquaintance who has made a successful living in New York for most of his working life is now preparing to leave the Big Apple now that work has all but dried up and come home where rentals are cheaper and where he hopes to diversify his income by doing some part time teaching.
Another friend, a talented bass-baritone and voice teacher has been able to continue doing his instruction on line, but all up and coming singing gigs have vanished from his schedule. He is even contemplating the possibility of doing a recital on line. As a tenured professor in a major music conservatory he holds out the hope that a projected student production that he is slated to direct and co-produce will take place, although the school, in his words “has had to reorganize and rethink, and in some cases reprogram the entire season.”
Some stories, like the one about a very fine pianist and her husband, a gifted composer are potent, and their hopeful words compelling.
“Like many of our colleagues, we were very sad to see the cancellation and postponement of performances and projects which we were very excited for: However, we have been extremely lucky to be able to take part in projects in response to COVID-19 (such as) our own… series which merges experimental video, photography, and… contemporary music…This extra time has given us the opportunity to reconnect with nature, slow down our speed, and work on our practice in new and rewarding ways…We both have found so much hope and imagination from our colleagues and the arts during this pandemic, and we want to share that positive message as much as possible.”
Designers, instrumentalists, singers… They all need an audience. They need Federal, State, and City assistance. They need governmental and private entities, donors, foundations, corporations to step up to help so that the artists in our country can continue to do their work in 2020, pandemic-ravaged America, work that will lift up our spirits and alleviate our cares and our grief.
Rafael de Acha