In her debut Life in the 60s column, Shelley Fralic touts a slower pace.
It’s a common refrain when devastating things happen: Creativity will thrive in these conditions. I’ve seen it said in recent days as tours are canceled, TV and film production is postponed and creatives are forced into self-isolation because of the coronavirus.
Just think of all the great songs and books and screenplays that will come out of this.
There’s an expectation that, because artists are stuck at home, they will create amazing things. I understand wanting to find the silver lining in a terrible situation; it’s a natural coping mechanism. But it ignores how poorly designed our infrastructure is for supporting artists.
I am a co-founder of a record label and Talkhouse, a media outlet for musicians, actors and filmmakers, and have worked with creative people in nearly every imaginable capacity for the past 15 years. The last few weeks have been a waking nightmare for all of us. I’ve lain in bed thinking about our community. Not once have I thought, “These artists are going to make some great stuff!”
The observation that Shakespeare wrote “King Lear” and “Macbeth” while in quarantine during a plague has frequently been touted as an example of creativity blossoming through crisis. But as Daniel Pollack-Pelzner noted recently in The Atlantic, “Shakespeare’s model provides little solace: Write while you wait out the closure; lean on wealthy patrons for bailouts; exploit your rivals’ demise.” The reality is that artists are losing so much right now, and they stand to lose even more. Many, if not most of them, do not have access to affordable health care. They live paycheck to paycheck.
Most musicians rely on a thriving live performance infrastructure — venues (which are laying off staff en masse as they close), tour managers, lighting crews, sound people, vendors. The shuttering of independent record stores will take a severe toll, and an increase in digital streaming volume (which isn’t borne out yet by current data; in fact, we’ve seen the opposite) won’t even begin to make up for the lost revenue from ticket and merchandise sales.
I cannot think of any other profession in which we expect people’s work output to be greater under worsening circumstances. No one says, “If we take away the majority of this general contractor’s income and damage the livelihoods of the skilled craftsmen that support them, that will inspire them to build a better quality home.” Working better under pressure might be possible for a student cramming for a midterm, but not so much when you have to write a hit song in order to put food in your children’s mouths.
We put a lot of pressure on creatives to make the things that make us feel better, and we sometimes forget they may be suffering, too. As my friend Katie Harkin, who plays with Sleater-Kinney and Courtney Barnett, said at a recent Talkhouse event: “There’s a myth that you metabolize pain into art and art into profit and profit into happiness.”
“That’s something that is just so damaging,” she added. This will be especially true throughout this crisis — artists will struggle to make art and make a profit in the coming months, and will not be made whole. Yes, people have been and will continue to turn to music, movies, theater and other entertainment for comfort. But too many people responsible for creating that content have been left in limbo for the foreseeable future, unsure of when and how their next paycheck will materialize.
This ultimately favors the most privileged artists among us. Shakespeare’s patrons were earls and high court officials. They kept him sheltered and fed and ultimately insulated from the horrors of the plague while the theaters were closed.
Perhaps there’s a more productive lesson to be taken from Shakespeare’s plague years: We need a better patronage system for artists. The website Patreon has emerged in recent years as a way for artists to have an ongoing creative dialogue with their fan base and to receive monthly subscription fees for the promise of a stream of exclusive content. Last week, Bandcamp, a platform that enables musicians to sell merchandise and music directly to fans, waived their commission from proceeds of music sales for a day. Billboard has assembled a list of resources for supporting music professionals in need during the pandemic.
Across the music industry, small and indie companies and individuals are trying to find ways to get artists paid for playing “virtual shows” live streamed from self-isolation. The only safety net is the one that we’re quickly trying to stitch together right at this moment.
There’s also a human element that dispels the “tragedy = great art” fallacy. As I write this, I’m getting worrisome texts and emails from friends, colleagues and loved ones. I’m pausing to look at Twitter every few minutes. I’m bombarded by news alerts, each more terrible than the previous. The notion that creativity can flourish in these circumstances is absurd.
Don’t feel pressure to make the next great work of art during this time — and resist the urge to put that pressure on anyone else. Take care of the artists who take care of you. We’ll need them to get through this.
Ian Wheeler (@PartisanIan) is the co-founder of Partisan Records and Talkhouse.
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The art of idleness: Why the relentless push always to be doing something? – Canada.com
“You’re retiring? Why? Won’t you be bored?” The questions, usually uttered in one breathless sentence, along with a look of confused disbelief, are delivered in a high-pitched, incredulous tone, as if in divulging your intention you have somehow caused offence, akin to defecting from the ranks after decades of faithful membership in an exclusive club.
The reaction is especially so if you are not yet 65, the age at which the average baby boomer was predestined to willingly hand over the keys to the kingdom to the next generation and head out in the Airstream, compartments stuffed with defined-benefit pension cheques.
I retired at 63. I had never planned to work beyond 65 and when, after 41 years in the newspaper business, a generous buyout offer came up, I took the money and ran. Loved my job, but I was done.
There was shock and awe in my small orbit.
What was I thinking? Giving up a great career, good money, pensionable years, extended benefits. Surely I was mad. And, good Lord, what would I do with myself all day long? The answer to that last question was easy: Nothing. Make no mistake: There is pressure upon retirement to do otherwise. One must have a purpose. There shall be no wasting of the day, no lollygagging in the remaining years. After all, we are the pigs in the python, that unholy hump of slowly digesting populous on modern history’s timeline, the Midas-touched generation for whom all things were golden. Jobs, housing, pensions, health — our wealth has been measured, like none before us, by the twin gods of longevity and economic ease.
The covenant? Thou must not squander one single second of our good fortune.
And so, in order to fulfil our anthropological destiny, many of us continue to work past 65, perhaps still loving the work, perhaps needing the money, perhaps believing we are defined by a paycheque. Others retire but travel relentlessly, haunted by that silly bucket list. We journey to Machu Picchu and Iceland and Slovenia, coasting waterways on kitted-out barges, riding tough terrain on flimsy bicycles, and wearing unflattering fast-wicking Lycra and goofy toques, all the while testing the limits of our savings and knees ravaged by years of jogging.
And then there are those of us who retire and do nothing. Who gladly and boldly embrace idleness.
If I needed inspiration for loafing, it came from a now-gone cherished friend, who retired from a celebrated radio career and immediately transitioned to his lanai in Hawaii, beer in hand and hibernation in his heart. Dare to ask him how he was going to pass the time and he would scoff at the absurdity of the query: “What do you mean, what am I going to do? I am going to do nothing.”
And so, four years on, the art of my idleness is near fully perfected, and so delicious a state of being that to wake at dawn, with another weightless day ahead, is an endorphin rush like no other.
Oh, there is the morning routine of coffee and newspapers at the local café. The visits with Mom, who is 93 and still doing daily floor exercises. There are pies to bake, documentaries to watch, beaches to stroll, books to finish, family to spoil, sales to shop.
And really, wasn’t that the point of retiring? You work for 50 years, get the kids through piano lessons and acne, transfer your caretaking obligations to elderly parents and — if you are especially blessed — continue to nurture the astonishing love you have for your grandchildren.
Because when the day comes that your body is suddenly slow and what once mattered to you — like what people think or say — really doesn’t matter anymore, you realize that it’s time to do what you want to do, not what is expected of you.
So here’s to the idle life. It will surprise you how little guilt you feel, how easy it is to dismiss the non-believers. Because doing nothing might be the best thing you never thought you’d do.
Regina art school offers activities for home-bound – Regina Leader-Post
Carla Lorence finds calm in creativity.
But with her art school closed due to COVID-19 precautions, she’s had to focus her creative energy on something altogether different: how to continue offering students the classes that bring them enjoyment and calm.
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“Creativity has that, by nature — I mean, your brain kind of is able to just shut off for a little bit,” she says. “You’re just so focused on what your hand is trying to do that you can really just sort of block everything else out and just enjoy that time.”
Lorence, formerly an elementary school art teacher, opened the Cathedral Art School in 2013, providing a place for Regina residents to learn and practice their skills. An accomplished artist herself, Lorence is an instructor at the school, teaching students various art forms, such as drawing and pottery.
The studio offers classes and workshops to people of all ages, from pre-schoolers to seniors. Since opening, the school has grown and evolved, enabling Lorence to bring in other artists to teach and offer workshops.
Virtual arts listings for the week of April 6: The best performances, talks, art classes and more – CBC.ca
The widespread isolation and social distancing of COVID-19 has hit Canada’s arts communities as hard as any other. World premieres were cancelled, juggernaut Broadway imports were brought to heel, gallery shows big and small were shuttered and promising new works missed their first shot at finding an audience.
But Canadian artists are a resilient bunch. Without skipping a beat, they’ve taken to the virtual stages that the rest of us are glued to 24/7. And we’re here to help you find them!
Each week, CBC Arts will put out a new list of the best live streams, art classes, talk series, festivals and more. (Our friends at CBC Music are keeping track of live streamed concerts, and over at CBC Books they’ve got a list of online children’s book readings.)
Know about a great event coming up? Drop us a line at email@example.com.
- DLT Theatre (ongoing): Together with Istituto Italiano di Cultura, DLT is launching “Theatre On-Call,” a festival of performances that occur over the phone. All performances will run on a Pay What You Can basis. On Monday March 23 at 8pm, Theatre On-Call will offer its third performance: “Decameron Today.”
- David Foster and Katharine McPhee Foster (ongoing, 8:30pm ET nightly): Actor and musician Katharine McPhee Foster and her husband, the Grammy-winning music producer David Foster, perform live at the piano in their home. Oh, and they’re taking requests.
- Iso-Late Night (6pm ET Wednesdays and Sundays, ongoing): Toronto comedians Courtney Gilmour and Dan Curtis Thompson are joining forces twice a week on Instagram Live for a late talk show for COVID-19 times, featuring segments, games, remote giveaways and special remote guests.
- Citadel Theatre (ongoing): Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre is presenting the “Citadel Stuck in the House Series,” a series of live performances from Edmonton artists who have lost income due to cancelled projects or gigs.
- Tika (7pm ET Fridays, ongoing): Musician Tika is hosting a weekly performance showcase she’s dubbed “Tika’s Circle.” Each week she invites a different curated selection of musicians to join her on Instagram Live and share their work. Artists so far have included Desiire and Jordan Alexander.
- Urgnt Live (7pm ET Fridays, ongoing): This live series was created to support Toronto-based musical artists and DJs being affected by the cancellation of all live events. A crowd-funded endeavour, its hope is to raise resources and recognition of these performers. Performers include Skratch Bastid and Clairmont the Second.
- TO Live (ongoing): TO Live is presenting “Living Rooms” featuring local Toronto artists performing from their homes. The first episodes online include tap dancer Travis Knights and dance artist Irma Villafuere.
Art classes and tutorials
- Donald Robertson (ongoing): Toronto-born artist Donald Robertson is posting cheeky art classes out of his California studio in his signature bright, poppy style. Try your hand at a Kermés bag!
- Canadians Create (daily): Edmonton-based artist Amy Dixon and calligrapher Brittany Dakins launched this online Facebook group where artists across Canada will be hosting 30-minute live art tutorials and “paint-alongs.”
- The National Ballet of Canada (ongoing): Principal dancers Jurgita Dronina, Guillaume Cote and Heather Ogden are delivering ballet classes from home. Check the National Ballet and Dronina’s Instagram accounts for class times and updates. Her first class was an hour-long workout — on pointe!
- Mend It (7:30pm ET Wednesdays): Toronto-based designer Emily Nicole Neill has created a virtual weekly workshop where people can work on hand-sewing skills, mend clothes and make new friends. Up this week? Learn how to repair socks!
Talks series, movies and festivals
- Social Distancing Festival (ongoing): A self-described “TV Guide of exquisite art,” the Social Distancing Festival is Toronto playwright Nick Green’s response to the raft of cancelled and postponed shows around the world.
- TIFF Stay at Home (7pm ET Fridays, ongoing): Miss watching movies with other human beings? TIFF is here with a new weekly screening series and conversation. Every Friday at 7pm, Cameron Bailey sits down for a Q&A with someone connected to the selected film of the week and then you get to watch it on Crave and tweet about it with everyone else whose tuned it. More here.
- Virtual Paradise Theatre (ongoing): Toronto’s newly restored Paradise Theatre may be shut down for the time being, but they’ve risen to the occasion by teaming up with New York-based distributor Film Movement and industry group Arthouse Convergence to bring art house movies to your homes. Check out this week’s lineup here.
- Revue Cinema and Designing the Movies (ongoing): As part of their Designing The Movies series, the Revue Cinema is hosting live tweet-alongs to films. On Wednesday, April 8, series host Nathalie Atkinson will take over Revue Cinema’s Twitter account to live-tweet along to the 1968 film The Thomas Crown Affair starring Faye Dunaway and Steve McQueen (and directed by Norman Jewison!). “There will be trivia, fashion history, sartorial debate, a virtual door prize, and ticket giveaways to future IRL screenings! ” More details are on their Facebook page.
- iskwē (7pm ET nightly): Every night, the award-winning musician iskwē is hosting a series of Instagram live conversations from her living room called, appropriately enough, Live from My Living Room, with guests drawn from the music and arts worlds (appearances so far have included Lights and Anthony Carone of Arkells).
- Rose Beef Turns To The Internet With: Nihilism (8pm ET Mondays, ongoing): Featured on the most recent season of CBC Arts series Canada’s a Drag, performer and activist Mikiki is taking to the internet for the next few Mondays with paint-alongs, readings, sermons, hijinks and virtual screenings of The Golden Girls.
- Remote Art Talks (ongoing): Artifier and Partial Art Gallery are presenting Remote Art Talks, a web series focused on artists. Lineup to be announced shortly on their Instagram.
Dance and viewing parties
- Club Quarantine (9pm ET nightly, ongoing): This online queer dance party created by some inspired Toronto folks has already become wildly popular nightly fixture of COVID life (Charli xcx and Kim Petras have even stopped by). You can join in every night on Zoom by finding the code on their Instagram. Entry is free, but do consider making a PayPal donation.
- Connected Reggae Party (9pm ET Thursdays, ongoing): If you’re hungry for some roots rock reggae, lovers rock and a little dancehall, this is the virtual party you’ve been looking for. Featuring DJs Noble Works, Shai and Roots Redemption, this party happens every Thursday on InstaLive at 9pm.
- Daybreak (8am ET Monday-Friday, ongoing): If you need some music in the morning to help you start your day, look no further. Chris Dubbs is usually heard on Toronto radios, but during the lockdown you can also catch him spinning reggae tunes on Instagram Live. Tune in Monday to Friday from 8am-9am.
- Allysin Chaynes and Champagna’s Weekly Drag Viewing Party and Uma Gahd’s Weekly Drag Race Viewing Party (8:45pm ET Fridays): Just because we’re watching RuPaul’s Drag Race from home doesn’t mean we can be entertained by some of Canada’s best queens in the process.
- Agha Khan (ongoing): The Agha Khan has launched a 3D virtual tour of their Bellerive Room, and they have more lined up to come. Visit their website to see the online collection of their archives and for their full #MuseumWithoutWalls program.
CBC Arts understands that this is an incredibly difficult time for artists and arts organizations across this country. We will do our best to provide valuable information, share inspiring stories of communities rising up and make us all feel as (virtually) connected as possible as we get through this together. If there’s something you think we should be talking about, let us know by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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