By Jill Rosenberg
I’m convinced there will be a cultural renaissance as the world moves through this global pandemic.
Artists and creators are well equipped to handle the uncertainty of these times. Resourceful, they rely on their drive, skill and talents to create something from nothing. As keen observers and clever interpreters, their voices and creativity are just the tonic that we need.
Audience expectations have shifted. Despite the shut down of theatres, galleries, concert venues, museums and cinemas, our need for entertainment remains. I’ll admit to having consumed more trashy reality TV in the past eight weeks than I have in my entire life. I feel no guilt for this! In between working from home, managing a house full of people and trying to keep the anxiety at bay – I’ll take whatever distraction I can get.
I recall the moment when I clued into an important cultural shift. 9:00 pm on a Saturday night, working late in my home office as always. A young singer songwriter, Ezra Jordan, was giving an impromptu performance from his family living room. I tuned in to the livestream for the sake of having background music. But the performance stopped me in my tracks. It was beautiful and profound under the circumstances. I invited other Facebook friends to join in a watch party and soon there were many of us, alone... yet together, enjoying this performance. Made all the more special in the context of the times.
Italians singing on balconies may have started it all. Virtual orchestras have come together as have dancers choreographing to video grid layout. As a voyeur of interior spaces, seeing how people decorate is a bonus!
The comedians have not disappointed. My favorite sketch, a soap opera, is The Longest Days of Our Lives, with Jimmy Fallon, Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig using props and costumes they just happen to have. Equally amusing, individuals re-creating terrible art found in charity shops using household items and makeup. One genius created a stop motion video of climbing a mountain and skiing down a hill by lying on his floor, bunching up bedsheets and filming hundreds of poses. John Krasinski has produced an at home news show, Some Good News, creating prom and graduation ceremonies for those missing out. Creativity just doesn’t go away.
On the flipside, while audiences benefit from this free entertainment, creators face a difficult long-term challenge of how to make a living. Streaming services for music and film have already reduced creator income significantly while big players like Netflix, Spotify and Amazon get wealthier. Elimination of live events will wipe out critical income streams. As resilient as they are, many people in the arts will struggle tremendously. I believe in a new cultural renaissance but it will require different types of stages, new ways of collaboration, distribution, and compensation models. Who will step up to the plate to take on these new challenges? Who is ready to solve a whole new set of problems? As always, the artists are way ahead.