An artist creates, communicates and collaborates! Is an artist an artist without art? This is a question that I have been contemplating since March. The COVID-19 pandemic has raised many questions about the importance of art and culture in our world.
In my opinion, an artist IS, regardless of what they produce, if anything. It is a way of being, a way of looking at the world, and the ability to focus an expression through a medium to show that expression.
More simply put, we make stuff! We create and and we change the world with it.
Throughout history artists have created and generated change and provided the foundation for the development of a culture. Without art we are nothing, just lumps of clay.
SO what does a culture do when the art is not allowed? Many times in history arts have been prohibited for one reason or another. We have been censored, starved and banned.
In America, there is so much art and culture to refer to that it is completely overwhelming. This art has never been easy, there are many who have always felt and still do, that art is unnecessary, a frivolity, a piece of lace. The misunderstanding is that in fact art is at the very backbone of all that we are: builders, teachers, doctors. Art is the impulse to make something happen.
“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” —Aristotle
In March, because of COVID-19, my company, Madison Lyric Stage had to postpone first and then cancel the double-bill production of Puccini’s Suor Angelica and Schoenberg’s Erwartung. This made me very sad, first of all because of all the hard work my cast had put forward, and all of the hard work my staff and I had put in to developing the production that I was directing, through two weeks of rehearsal. Also, as I was performing the extremely difficult role in Erwartung, which is usually sung by a soprano, after months of working with my pianist, Kelly Horsted, in NYC, and adapting an English translation for the piece, after all this work, I was not able to bring this performance of many firsts to the stage.
Well okay so that was sad, but we all stayed healthy and the company stayed solvent, and we will hopefully do the production in 2021. So into lockdown quarantine we went. Then. it became clear that our entire season would have to be cancelled. The play, The Boys in the Band and Sweeney Todd, spanning through October.
So then it became clear that all of my work for the company and in fact my work in other venues was all going on hold. But, I was not alone. Everyone is in this boat! I am so lucky, because when this veil of illness is lifts I will have my company and my fantastic ensemble of artists with me. Many institutions are not so lucky. Many individual artists and institutions will go bankrupt and many performances will not be seen. This is truly sad. For me, it is as sad as anything I can think of.
The world is in a place of CHAOS like I have never known in my life. People without jobs, losing their homes, and their very lives. We are without proper leadership and in such turmoil all around us.
But you know what the power of art is? It is an online table read of a Shakespeare play, just for them. It is a virtual concert of broadway stars raising millions of dollars for charity in 2 hours. It is famous opera singers, performing concerts alone from a stage with no audience. It is a banner that says BLACK LIVES MATTER on a street. Art is expression, art is involvement, art is humanity. We will always have it. We will have to work hard for it, but then we always have.
During the pandemic with all of this time without art in the forum we know, now is the time to create new forums. In many ways, a whole new world! I have faith in us as artists!