How artists are surviving during a global pandemic

An image from Ji Su Im, an artist affected by the pandemic.

Without access to studios or the supplies they need to create art, student artists at Pacific have lost a lot since the pandemic started. Senior Daniel Josefchak had signed up for a ceramics course spring semester since he finally had room in his schedule, but has since dropped it.

“I withdrew from the class before class actually started up again,” Josefchak said. “I got the email from the professor saying we wouldn’t have studio access and I knew immediately that that’s not worth it to me.”

Senior Amber Smith is enrolled in Studio II CE: Interdisciplinary Design for the spring semester, though the class has changed quite a bit.

“The most disappointing thing is I actually really enjoyed working in the shop and learning how to use the wood-working tools and physically building things,” Smith said. Smith’s course has primarily changed to 3D modeling, which she doesn’t see herself using much in her regular life.

Lily Van (@liliuhms), a student at University of Colorado Denver and a professional artist, said she’s been able to take on freelance work, but she’s primarily focusing on schoolwork and her senior thesis. Much like Pacific, Van’s college canceled her thesis presentation and her graduation.

 “I think the biggest blow was my thesis and my graduation being cancelled,” Van said. “It feels like the last four years were kinda useless.” 

She sympathized with other art students that have lost their access to technology and studios, noting how students at her college reached out to the Dean and Art Director to get support.

“Look into different organizations and apply to those to get the monetary funds for working at home,” Van said. “The art community is really rising up to try to do their best.”

Other professional artists have also lost a lot since the pandemic started, from not having a studio space to conventions being cancelled. This has affected their income significantly, though many have been lucky to have other ways to make money via their online shops, commissions, or freelance work.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, artist Kai Kwong (@_dollgirls) has lost over half of their yearly income due to event cancellation throughout the year. 

“Every event that I was slated to participate in has been canceled through July— big conventions like Fanime and Anime Expo are now postponed to 2021.” Kwong mentioned that many of their local events and craft markets were also cancelled without any idea of when they will reschedule.

Though most of their business plans have been put on hold, Kwong is taking on freelance design and illustrative projects to help cope with the loss of income and keep themselves busy. 

“Despite the circumstances, I’m actually feeling much more confident in myself as an artist,” Kwong said. “This whole situation has proven that I’m more adaptable and resilient than I previously made myself out to be, and I am hoping that I’ll be able to continue to experience growth once all of this is over.” 

Before the pandemic, Wen Neale (@puppypetter2000), a San Francisco based artist, put up pre-orders for his ‘bonk’ shirts and had otherwise been saving money. However, this doesn’t mean he wasn’t also affected by convention cancellations as he is losing out on around 25-30K for the year.

“Luckily because of my online store, it wasn’t detrimental for me,” he said.

Ji Su Im (@jisoupy), an Australian designer and illustrator, has also struggled with a loss of income as two major Sydney-based zine fairs and a large convention were cancelled for her.

“It has definitely impacted my income, but I think I am more devastated at the loss of the feeling of community.” Lately, Su Im has been working on more digital work and has found passion in traditional work again. “Right now traditional work is actually becoming a really good mental break from everything that’s been going on. Some relaxation amidst the chaos.”

There are plenty of ways to support artists and art students during the pandemic, from words of encouragement to buying products from online storefronts. Van mentioned supporting artists through patreon, their shops, or even just retweets.

“I know a lot of people can’t send money at this time, but even just vocal support is very helpful at this time.”

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