We’re all at a point now where healing has to be the concept that rules all others. Healing the environment, healing those who have become not just acutely but chronically ill from a disease we don’t yet know enough about, healing the grieving.
Creative expression and the Arts forge connections among people, and connection is one of the key things that keeps people healthy. If we are all going to get healthy again after the body blows we’ve taken it will only be through personal and community connections, and art is drawing the map for us to find those things.
Given that arts work is fundamentally communicative, and most artists communicate for a living, it’s bizarre how little traction any of the very positive messages they are constantly putting out there seem to get in public consciousness. In Australia practically everyone engages with art every day, and yet the sense they have of what they are doing is somehow that “the Arts” is other stuff that people are doing elsewhere, not the music you listen to and your kids’ holiday workshops and that mural you like on that local wall. I don’t know how to solve this. I know who the enemy is; I know that conservative government and media believe that they get favourable responses when they trash talk arts workers, and I know, alas, that they seem to be right. I don’t know what can break the cycle.
Right now artists, exhausted and resource-stripped as they are, are doing what they always do. They’re working to help the communities that are struggling to recover from floods, and those (particularly the young, the old and the disabled) who have been feeling the impact of increased isolation. Always putting out there more than they can recuperate.
We must make it possible for arts workers to live and arts organisations to thrive, not just because we want to continue to have those things in our society, but because there’s no way our society can heal from the damage it’s taken in the last two years without them. Art is how we will get through this.