Across the country, concert venues are empty, unobserved art sits in museums and artists are struggling to interact with the outside world.
Like the rest of us, artists were shaken when so much of the world outside their doors stopped. Without events going on, they needed to find innovative solutions to create a new way to pay their bills.
People have long said that desperation inspires artists. The question, when they and their audiences are sheltering at home, is what are they doing with so much inspiration and few channels to get their work out to the world?
Big artists have special options. Popular music artists like Tove Lo and Travis Scott have ventured into gaming, performing live in interactive video games such as Animal Crossing and Fortnite to promote new songs and connect with potential fans on those enormous platforms.
But what about smaller artists who typically need to book venues, or sell their work in galleries? Their options have lately been largely limited to digital platforms. This pandemic is changing the way such artists sell their work. They require new ways to connect with fans or customers. They’ve been putting in work over the Internet to make sure they stand out on social media more than ever. They are using Zoom calls and other digital platforms to try to connect from home. Many have gotten creative by amplifying their presence in the hope of gaining traction on their Instagram pages.
After immigrating to Miami from Argentina at the age of 12, Natasha Nutkiewicz, who goes by the artist name of “Natasha Nutka,” found herself in Miami’s art scene. Growing up surrounded by performers, she wanted to be an artist herself. She just needed to find a way to do so.
In 2017, she decided to create her own production company, Thrifty Lion Productions, to put on events and showcase art. The goal was to contribute to the art scene she was surrounded by, and which became the main source of income.
When the pandemic hit and events all over the world were canceled, she had to get creative about how she would use her artistic skills to keep producing work she was passionate about. She also needed to make money.
Nutka likes to refer to herself as a “multi-hyphenate” because she runs the production company and is an actress studying dramatic arts at USC, as well as a singer and film producer. Nutka was also quick on her feet to take her love of acting into a realm where she could still earn money from it. She began teaching acting and musical theater to kids over Zoom. This is getting her through the summer when children were out of school, but she is looking for a dependable income as she moves back to Los Angeles to attend USC. With events still on hold in the city, she’s hoping to secure an art internship in Los Angeles to help support herself financially during the school year.
Although events aren’t happening in person, that didn’t stop Nutka from putting on an online festival back in May to raise money for the people on the front lines of COVID-19. That is how the Wonders of the World Wide Web Festival was born on Zoom, bringing together six artists from six continents for a digital festival at the beginning of May.
Although Nutka’s focus has been finding a new way to make an income with her art, she and the team wanted to put Wonders of the World Wide Web on to help raise money for UNICEF’s COVID-19 response team. As artists use their ability to bring people together through what they create, many artists are doing so to help others despite their own desperation.
As COVID-19 has rocked artists' world, pushing them to adapt to a new digital reality, many are trying to create a presence with the online resources available to them. Through Zoom festivals and Instagram raffle giveaways, the creative flow of these artists is shining through not only in their work, but with their ability to take resources available at home and use them creatively.
“I think I accidentally had the perfect niche for people cooped up at home,” says textile designer Bailey Goldberg, who has spent his time in self-isolation making commission pieces of rugs with creative and fun designs like the NYC Metrocard and Purell logo.
Just last year, Goldberg was a cut-and-sew designer working 10-hour days for five days each week, making handbags and other accessories. Recently, he shifted to become a full-time rug designer. What started off as a hobby to keep himself busy at home has turned into a full-fledged rug business selling commissioned pieces on his Instagram page from his apartment in New York City. (Give it a look it’s as cool as it sounds @BaileyXGoldberg).
Before people began social distancing, Goldberg had made a small rug for the Dertbag store in Manhattan and was in the talks about doing some showings in friends' storefronts, but with stores closed such plans are on hold.
When COVID-19 overtook New York City, Goldberg thought customers would put rug orders on hold. But people with access to money were no longer spending it on nights out at bars and restaurants. Some of them chose instead to spend it to brighten up the homes they were spending nearly all their time in.
But how does a rug maker compete with an online mega-company, like Amazon, or Urban Outfitters? They do what creatives do best, get creative.
Back in April, Goldberg’s Instagram began to gain traction as he posted a rug he made inspired by the “Stay at Home” order. He made it a giveaway piece by having people comment on a post and then re-post it on Instagram. He chose a winner after getting around 300 entries on the post. That meant he got 300 people sharing it on Instagram. It was a turning point for his work. When asked about this piece, he said it originally came to him because he thought it would make people happy, or at least laugh. Little did he know, it would allow his business to flourish.
During the Black Lives Matters protests, Goldberg held a raffle for a rug he designed calling for the defunding and disarming of police so that proceeds could go to a bailout fund.
After getting about 150 entries and raising $745, he donated the money 100% of the proceeds to the Community Justice Exchange Emergency Response Fund and gave a rug with the message “Defund and Disarm” to the raffle winner.
More recently, Goldberg designed a rug for an Instagram page called “War Bugs Me,” which is holding a raffle to raise money for the Lebanese Red Cross after the devastating explosion in Beirut early this month.
As Goldberg raises funds through his art, he brings in an audience that supports his artwork for both its artistic value and for the connection it creates by being art with meaning.
You can find Goldberg’s work and the way to purchase commissioned pieces on his Instagram account, @BaileyxGoldberg.