For as long as I can remember, engaging with and enjoying the arts has always been a collective experience. Working as part of a theatre group was always about celebrating the talents of others as well as oneself. Singing in a choir meant ensuring all the sounds worked in perfect harmony to create a memorising performance. Watching a play created many memorable evenings with my family. Spellbinding dance groups have worked together for years, even decades, to ensure their routines are second to none. Even a solo musician demonstrating their talent on the piano has only got there thanks to expert teaching and support.
This is so admirable and what the arts should all be about. While individual excellence is brilliant, it is only part of the equation for a truly outstanding artistic endeavour. However, that has unfortunately been brought to a complete standstill. The spread of coronavirus across the globe has meant theatres, museums and art galleries have shut their doors. Following government advice which seeks to curtail non-essential gatherings, such cultural entities have closed to try and prevent the virus contaminating even more people. Numerous artistic events have been postponed or even cancelled, including, of immense personal pain to me, Eurovision.
It is only when a crisis takes place that we truly appreciate the art we love.
Everyone is advised to spend as much time as possible inside. While this advice is understandable, it does mean the bonds that the arts create have inevitably been severed. Social distancing has meant shared experiences have been put on the back-burner. Of course, tackling the virus has to be a top priority. But, for many people, the arts are a vital component of our lives. Whether it’s appreciating the wonders of a museum or enjoying pure talent at the theatre, such beacons of exploration form a key part of our cultural experience. For them to be taken away – for the foreseeable future – is not easy to adjust to.
However, there is no need for complete defeatism. It is perfectly possible to enjoy the artistic world by ourselves. Though we are in solitude, there are plenty of ways in which culture can be appreciated from the comfort of one’s home. The most obvious example is reading. Plenty of theatre plays are likely to be adapted from books or have their script published. Now is the perfect opportunity to stock up on all those literary finds which helped shape the plays we all love. If you’ve not got them, many national and independent bookshops still take part in deliveries. For supporting a worthy cause and reading up on artistic history, books are a fantastic way to enjoy that experience.
While shops remain shut, the internet will never go offline (unless my dodgy broadband connection persists), and this virtual library is a treasure trove of exploration. It is only when a crisis takes place that we truly appreciate the art we love. Though it is never the same as visiting in person, galleries often have some of their key collections of paintings online, as well as much extra information on a specific artist. I imagine days in self isolation could be lost enlightening one’s self about a particular creator who shaped society for generations to come.
Such an opportunity has arisen to unite groups together.
The online world need not be solitary. There is often a group for everything on the internet world. Can’t go to a book club? There will probably be one online. We have all be united in our solitary conditions as a result of this virus. Such an opportunity has arisen to unite groups together. Whether it is contributing to the local community message board or writing in a Facebook group devoted to a certain play, there are many opportunities to become involved and celebrate of the arts virtually, if not in the real world.
I believe we will never truly appreciate what YouTube can offer. There are more videos online than we can ever begin to imagine. Whilst reading is a pleasure, watching videos can be a far easier form to truly understand the history behind a movement. Numerous documentaries have been made about the arts, through TV and radio, and museums that have suspended tours may have more information online. Whilst perhaps not compensating for the real-life experience, online culture can begin to make up for the isolated nature of many of our lives.
I believe we will never truly appreciate what YouTube can offer.
However long the coronavirus pandemic lasts, the arts will never go away. They are an intrinsic part of humanity, for they represent our shared ability to come together in the pursuit of creativity. Whatever medium is being celebrated – acting, singing, painting – creators will continue to work on their talent throughout this uncertain period. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if many future artistic works were inspired by the different consequences of the coronavirus. There are many ways to continue celebrating work that inspires us, all whilst keeping ourselves – and others – safe.