I learned a very peculiar thing in 2020; art is essential.
I've never really believed that until now. I always thought art was a luxury. Something superfluous that could enrich someone's life, but definitely something that people could live without.
2020 changed that truth for me.
We are living through a pandemic, and many of us are watching the world go by from the screens we have in our homes. Whether it's a cell phone screen, computer screen, or a tv screen, technology is our window to the world. During the past year, we have consumed a tremendous amount of content while staying home.
Many of us watch more TV, spend more time on our phones and on the internet, than we did in 2019. What are we consuming?
A lot of art.
From films to tv shows, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, tiktok, instagram, or whatever it is, we're consuming a lot of it. Or we're creating it.
Art is our expression of creativity. We use creativity to say something about ourselves, or about the world. And in the middle of a pandemic, this need to consume or create has never been greater. We needed art.
Imagine if in 2020, you had no books to read, no movies to watch, no crafts to make, no viral videos to watch? No memes, no challenges, no tutorials, no poetry, no music, no takeout food, no dancing. What if art and creativity was killed in 2020?
I don't know if we would have made it.
We are able to cope with very challenging times because of art, music, craft, storytelling, dance, comedy, cuisine, performance.
The pandemic taught me that art is essential.
It may not be essential like oxygen, water, or nutrients, but without art would humans really live? Art is what make humans so special. And it's what makes our lives so special. Because life for us isn't just about survival. I don't want any of this writing to sound insensitive, because there are many people who will never read this. There are millions of people simply trying to physically survive.
But I bet that even the people who strive to secure food and shelter draw strength from art. Singing a song, doing a dance, playing a game. Art is essential.
I'm finding that through my practice in the past few months, that successful individual practice is part of strong community. When I sell art, I receive money in exchange for the work. The money I receive then goes back into the community. I've used art proceeds to purchase cured salmon from an unemployed chef, coffee beans roasted by friends and their businesses, bagels made from a home kitchen, handmade cups from a potter who lives in my apartment building, meals from local restauranteurs who are trying to survive this storm, etc.
And although I'm living month to month and am not financially secure, I'm going to buy original art this year. Once I receive my stimulus check, I'm going to spend pretty much all of it on a painting by a Detroit artist, from Playground Detroit's Pop Up shop in downtown, that I'm hoping is still on the wall by the time I can purchase it.
I'm not buying art because I have tremendous wealth and have the luxury of collecting. I'm buying art because I'm learning first hand that the money I spend is going to strengthen my community.
"For every $100 you spend at locally owned businesses, $68 will stay in the community."
Instead of using the stimulus to pay banks and bills, I want to put that money into the hands of entrepreneurs and the people who create culture. I'm only able to do that because in the past few days, I've sold several paintings. Because others have decided to buy art, I am able to pay for the necessities of life (food, shelter, and art), and I am able to participate in strengthening my community.