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by Belle Hann

There’s no doubt that COVID-19 is having a devastating impact on creative industries. But when I am finding hope in thinking about the Renaissance, as many historians believe that the Black Death plague somehow led to that glorious outpouring of arts, music, and literature in 14th century Italy.

Would something similar happen to us in Melbourne? I spoke with several working artists who shared how they are using their time in COVID-19 isolation.

“This is not time to be wasted,” says Aran Holland, radio host and DJ with House of Friends.  “Its a unique opportunity to delve deeper into creative opportunities.”

Technology has played a huge role in helping artists promote new creative endeavours. Maxine Zanoni is a filmmaker and a member of Medium, an artist-based platform located in the inner-west. She notes that Medium has used this time to promote website features such as artist interviews with artists, music reviews. Medium has also just launched ‘Virtually Social’ an online live streaming gig.

Some artists have seized opportunities to upskill online through sites like creativelive and skillshare. For example Harrison Moss, also known as DJ Yassas from House of Friends, has been focusing on learning Logic to help future music collaborations when gigs start opening up again.

Other people have been using this downtime to think more reflectively about their work. Brigid Burke, a visual and tattoo artist, has been journalling and brainstorming about future projects. “I’ve been introspective about my next strategic move,” she says.

Brigid has also taken part in online figure drawing classes taking place weekly on Instagram with a live model. Charles Jensen, a graphic designer with Medium has also adopted personal challenges such as “36 Days of Type”. He says “(This is) a project that invites designers, illustrators and graphic artists to express their particular interpretation of the letters and numbers of the Latin alphabet.”

However, other creative people are finding that their artistic mojo just isn’t happening in this stressful time. You may have seen social media slogans to the effect of “its okay to be unproductive” offering solace for those of us stuck at home with little motivation.

Melbourne musician Zeb Lethwaite agrees that there is a “certain level of pressure artists place on themselves to constantly be creatively productive with their time.” He adds: “It is okay to sleep in, it is okay to watch a movie, it is okay to take time to just relax.”

So whether the post-COVID era ushers in a time of socio-cultural explosion remains to be seen. However, all artists interviewed agreed that this is a frustrating and strange time may have unexpected blessings. Kyle Mclelland, a musician with Medium says it best:  “We are living in such a rare time period where exchanging our projects is in the palm of our hands – and we definitely shouldn’t take that for granted.”

Image and artwork:  Elwyn Davies is a long time Footscray resident and registered nurse at Western Health Drug Health Services (but part-time wannabe guerrilla pseudo intellectual street artist)

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