Does Art Matter? Artists Faced Many Hardships Due to the Lockdown

Amid COVID, we’ve sought refuge in our favourite art form. Art & artists have stood by us in these trying times.

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Artists have worked over the last six months, but did anyone think about the artists who were coping?
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Do you? Do the powers that be, do they?

Are artists an invisible section of the society? Do they even count? Are artists even recognised as a community? Is their contribution to the overall wellbeing of the nation even acknowledged? The dancers, musicians, painters, sculptors, artisans, poets, writers, technicians and the many others who work backstage to support magnificent creations of art, do they matter? Do artists matter?

Artists from across economic strata were gripped with anxiety as the pandemic took its toll. Suddenly, out of nowhere the river of their creativity was dammed!

An insurmountable dam suddenly arose in front of the human race. This included the artist fraternity who were shell-shocked and like the rest of the world tried to come to terms with the reality. Neglected, they chose to hold each other’s hands.

How Will the Artists Survive?

Nevertheless, artists forged ahead re-imagining the creative urge within them. One by one, slowly the small flame within each of them started igniting, tillen-masse they burst forth, giving to the world a wide gamut of artistic offerings to nourish and sustain.

Unflinchingly and selflessly they have worked over the last six months flooding online platforms with sparks of creativity, reaching to millions across the globe giving solace and comfort.

But these were only the privileged few who had access to social media and technology. What about those who were not so privileged? Did anyone think of how these artists were coping? Did anyone even give it a thought?

Art and life are simultaneous. As Pablo Picasso said “Art washes away the dust of everyday life” it also dissolves the anxiety, the tragedy, the insurmountable problems of everyday life.

It transports us into a world of imagination and beauty, giving us the courage to face all eventualities. Art is imagery, movement, grace, colour, sound, touch, structure, beauty, rhythm, an unfettered imagination and above all, the artist’s indomitable spirit that takes us through the ups and downs of life.

It is ART that takes us closest to our humanity. Artists and their art make the intangible, tangible.

Does Art Matter? Artists Faced Many Hardships Due to the Lockdown
(Photo Courtesy: Dinesh Khanna for Sudeep Sen’s book of poetry “The Whispering Anklets”)

Over the past several months, we have sought refuge in our favourite art form. Art and artists have stood by us in these testing times.

In our anxious moments, we have always had our go-to song, our comfort film, our favourite dancer or musician, our most-loved book, our favourite artefact...But did we stand by the artist who made these moments of indefinable ecstasy possible for us?

As the COVID-19 pandemic raged across India and the world, thousands of artists across every art-form and craft-genre, have been left bereft, out of work, out of homes.

For most of these artists, life came to a brutal standstill. No more shows, no more performances, not enough revenue options and certainly not enough patronage from audiences.

Several sections of these artists were dependent on the tourist season to make ends meet; many were technical hands in large events. Everything came to a grinding halt.

All That They Had to Deal With

Most of them weren’t negotiating salary cuts, EMI moratoriums, or credit card dues. They just didn’t know how to fund their next meal, feed their families and keep their art alive.

As a performer of Kathak, I know that there are no short cuts. It is years and years of hard work, dedication, total immersion and surrender, after which one maybe ready to share ones art.

The very nature of creativity is such that it compels you, in rain or shine to forge ahead. The river of our heritage has been constantly rejuvenated by artists through the centuries and it is this river that has nourished our art and culture. Are we going to let it dry?

Does Art Matter? Artists Faced Many Hardships Due to the Lockdown
(Photo Courtesy: Dinesh Khanna for Sudeep Sen’s book of poetry “The Whispering Anklets”)

An artist requires an entire eco system, support organisms to sustain their art. The accompanying dancers, musicians, the designers and technicians of light and sound, the stagehands and stage designers, the instrument makers and the costume makers, the make-up artist and the spot boys.....the list is endless.

And now, the auditorium seats lie vacant and the stage lies bare, the bazaars empty, the local fairs cancelled.….and the artists and artisans? Forgotten!

Art is inclusive – everyone who creates is an equal participant of a larger creative whole.

In these dark moments, it is this tapestry we need to sustain and preserve. We need to make sure that this beautiful warp and weft of music and dance, colour and texture, image and structure, sound and resonance is looked after and nurtured.

Can the artists survive this pandemic without any financial support?

Artists across India are our responsibility – we cannot ignore the urgent reality of their depleted circumstances unfolding around us.

Without art human society will crumble into shreds of divisive violence and walls of prejudice. Art transcends differences and transforms us.

They need us now, more than ever. Those of us who are fortunate to have weathered the storm of the past few months must act now. Teamwork Arts’ #ArtMatters series is a wonderful initiative to rehabilitate artists across India – a lot has already been done – many families have received food, groceries and medicines. Much is still left to be done.

A whole lot of us across artistic fields have come together therefore to perform in a magnificent virtual gala concert tomorrow, aptly titled – I Believe Art Matters – a fundraiser by artists and for artists (organised by Teamwork Arts).

This promises to be a delightful pastiche of art forms curated with vision and expertise. I look forward to large viewings of this one-of-kind concert! Details for booking on BookMyShow are available on www.teamworkarts.com.

I also eagerly look forward to generous contributions from those who are beholden to the gifts that art and its universal language continue to bestow on the world.

As long as the world has its the artists and their craft, we will endure.  Stand with the artist today so that they can stand by you with their awe-inspiring creations, always.

ART MATTERS!

(Aditi Mangaldas is a Kathak dancer and choreographer, who works with the traditional repertoire of Kathak. A former student of both Kumudini Lakhia and Birju Maharaj, she remained one of the principal dancers in the latter's troupe for several years, before starting her own dance institution in Delhi, the Drishtikon Dance Foundation. This is a blog. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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