This is a strange and difficult time for all of us. Many years ago I used to teach people about Maslow’s hierarchy of need and I didn’t think I’d ever refer to it again, but I’ve found it helpful in thinking about connections between artists and lovers of art at this time. Are they still possible and helpful at this time. and how they can support each other?
At the present time there are many people grappling with their basic needs for air, food, and safety, in this country and around the world. We are all much more aware of how easily we might find ourselves suddenly struggling to access these most fundamental needs, or the unexpected loss of loved ones. So it’s very likely that both artists and art lovers may be focussed on either their own survival needs or putting their energy, time and money into supporting those who need help at this most basic level – donating to food banks, volunteering in many different ways, helping the NHS and so on. Thank you for doing this. May we become a kinder country, more in touch with the lives of the many people in real need, once this is over.
There are artists who feel unable to focus on making art at the moment, because they are facing concerns for their own basic survival, they feel it is frivolous or pointless, or feel uncomfortable to talk about selling their work at such a time. I understand and respect these feelings. However, human connection in all its forms is (according to Maslow) our next most pressing need, after survival and safety.
Whilst we are unable to physically reach out to most of our friends and loved ones, it becomes even more important to show them we care about them. I expect the number of cards sent or delivered during this crisis will increase significantly and many people will be choosing to send meaningful gifts to others. This is one very practical area where artists and art lovers can reach out and support each other.
If you are an artist who has cards, prints or pieces of work available and you would be able to safely get them delivered, please make sure that people can find them and buy them from you – through Instagram, Facebook or on your website or Etsy or other online shop. You are providing something unique, personal and of value for people to send to loved ones, or to lift their own spirits after long days or weeks of isolation and stress.
If you appreciate art, please support local artists wherever you can. Even buying ‘just a card’ can make a difference. Earning money as an artist is difficult at the best of times. We will all be poorer in future if artist cannot continue to use their talents to add to the richness of life for many of us. If you can afford to purchase a painting or commission a piece of work at this time, now is a good time to do it. Many artists are offering reduced prices, making donations to charities supporting the hardest hit from each sale, or supporting other less fortunate artists to keep going through the #artistsupportpledge.
As well as the financial burdens, there is also the disappointment of being cut off from the people who give you encouragement and the boost to self-esteem of knowing people appreciate your work. Likes, links and comments on social media may not be the same as a conversation with an artist at an exhibition, but they cost nothing except time, and help to build a real connection between artist and customer which is of great value to both. Whenever I send a card or use my coffee mug or look at a print on my wall, I enjoy the beauty and energy of the item and the skill of the artist, but knowing something of the artist’s story behind each piece makes them even more special.
I know some artists who are concerned about seeming ‘pushy’ or shallow talking about their art at this time. I think anyone who follows an artist on social media, signs up to a newsletter or reads an artist’s blog, does so because it gives them pleasure, connection and brings them something positive. If the artist quietly shares how much the piece is and how they can purchase it, I don’t believe this puts people off, although no others have different opinions. I would be really interested to hear the views of art lovers or artists' supporters. Do please tell me what you think.
Keeping ourselves as sane and happy as possible and ‘feeding our souls’/keeping in touch with the things that make us the best humans we can be are just as valuable as ever and an essential part of who we are (Maslow’s higher-level needs). For many people, making art or enjoying art are activities that help lift us up. In this difficult time, I think they are still vitally important, whenever we have energy or means to focus on them.
I have been trying to understand the needs and motivation of artists at this time – recognising that everyone is facing different challenges and will have a different response, which will probably develop and change during the course of the coming weeks and months. If you are an artist who would be willing to share your response to this blog I’d love to hear from you.
I am also very interested to hear from anyone who considers themselves to be an art lover or art supporter. What is your response to my comments? Please do let me know.