I am reading posts on social media from artists all over the world telling us that their gigs, entire seasons, are cancelled. It is a heartbreaking thing for an aritst, having spent months in preparation for a performance, to find out that your work will not now see the light, a failure to complete with an emotional impact almost on the order of a miscarriage for some.
In addition, the financial implications are huge, as most gig performers generally do not get paid for preparation, but see the pay cheque only after all performances are complete. And let's face it: few gigging performers have a substantial savings account to fall back on. For any artist the road is long and lonely. It gets hungry, cold and scary when all the way-stations are closed, and no one gathers to hear your music, much less afford you your supper.
But I want to remind us all, all performance artists, that even though events may be cancelled, you remain important, your work profoundly significant. If nothing else, I encourage you all to use the time you get back from not having to travel, not having to sit through sound checks, not havng to show up for rehearsals , use all of this time to practice.
Because here's the thing: you and your art are the heart and soul of our society, our of culture, of our very reason for being in the world. People will get ill, and some will die. But the sick need a reason to get better, and the surivors a reason to carry on. Art shows us the way to that reason, makes us turn from despondancy and turn to face life in all its possibilities, full on. Art draws us together as people, even in sorrow as in gladness, and reminds us why it matters to work together to make the world the best possible place it can be for each of us, for all of us, for today, and for tomorrow.
I am struck by the tone in the posts my artist-friends share. I don't read despair. I dont' even read anger. I read uncertainty: the rent must be paid, yes? But I also get the feeling that each of you is already doing just what I suggested above: that is, turning away from your messages, the emails announcing seasons cancelled, appearances posponed, and practicing. After all, it is what you do.
Artists are the epitome of resiliance. Notice how everyone now complains about the insecurities of the "gig" economy? And where did that word even come from except to describe the "normal"working conditions of musicians and actors? So, my friends, as artists you are way more equipped to survive the economic fallout of pandemic than those with limited experience of last minute cancellations, or worse, doing the work and not getting paid because someone "forgot" the "envelope. We are facing difficult times. But hey, if you are a performance artist - a musician, an actor, a dancer, - be glad you are an artist. You, to be sure, have more going for you in time of crisis than any other worker in any other field, not the least of which is the capacity to make something out of every experience you're ever had including this one, something that touches people in sorrow and in joy, and brings solace, if not wholeness to those wounded in body or in spirit. You will survive this. You will rise to this. And for that, the entire world, must applaud and be glad. My friends, take heart. As artists, know you are loved. Know that your work, if you are artist, and whatever the field, remains the most important thing happening on this planet right now. Because art equals hope, art equals life, art equals the future for us all. Regardless. Play on. Just keep playing on. It's what you do. And the world is grateful. As for everyone else? If you are an artist in your heart, but not in making your living, take pause for those who rely on being paid for their artistry by reason of being committed full time to making the best possible art they can. Take pause, and maybe consider buying ahead for a performance when restrictions are lifted, donate to your favourite arts organization, and best of all book and pay for a private performance now. Support the arts. Support our artists. Especially now when they are, economically, most vulnerable.