Photo Credit: “Struggles of Grounding” by Angelin Valencia Thipahar
How art becomes a source of connection in the midst of a pandemic
Angelin Thipahar, Illustrations Editor
“All art is really quite useless,” Oscar Wilde said. Art does not have any value unless we assign value to it. It does not necessarily have to serve any larger purpose to exist. I think this is something we found to be true during quarantine. People created things for no other reason than to occupy their time by making something that brought on some degree of enjoyment or satisfaction. This is not to say that all of the artistry that came from the pandemic served no larger purpose. Throughout the past year and a half, we’ve really observed how the acts of dancing, painting, writing, and speaking have enabled us to find a sense of calm in what can only be described as the worst of times. The feeling of being trapped, combined with the conflict and prejudice that emerged in the past year, made everyone feel a little lost.
Speaking for myself, I know that this time was not easy on my mental health and perhaps several of you felt the same way. Quarantine was indeed a period where innovation and creativity seemed to be present everywhere: in social media, detailed chalk artistry on the streets, in the sudden surge of landscaping projects that seemed to pop up everywhere. This was a time where ingenuity was necessary, not just in the medical field, but in our daily lives as well. The artistry was a welcome distraction and, for many of us, this time ignited and reignited creative passions, myself included. I’ve always considered myself to be a fairly creative person; however, over my senior year of high school and first year of university, I found myself losing that inspiration to make something just for the sake of making it.
When the pandemic first hit, it was a time of adjustment where everything seemed to be in flux and my mental health, like many others, was not doing so well. Being stagnant is never anyone’s preferred lifestyle after all. Soon, I turned to old hobbies to pass the time and take my mind off the news that served as a reminder that we should all be afraid. I started to pick up a brush with a purpose for the first time in quite a while. During the summer of 2020, I found myself able to focus for hours on just making shapes and lines of colour, sometimes with clear objectives and other times without. Several studies discuss the benefits of art therapy for one’s mental health and wellbeing and what I found was that, through my own creative expression and witnessing that of others, I was able to find a way to breathe again and I was not the only one. During a time when we were all disconnected, we found ways of establishing a connection with each other through the simple exclamations of, “Hey, look what I made!”
As university students, I think we are all taught that we should take life seriously, that we are in the process of designing our future and that we should plan for it as best as we can. The pre-pandemic world is one we are slowly returning to and, while this is an amazing thing, we might forget the value of creativity amid schedules, responsibilities and keeping up with our busy lives. We may genuinely start to believe, especially over midterm season, that all art is quite useless. However, this situation we have overcome serves as a real-life example of why we need these kinds of outlets in our lives and how we are all capable of great innovation and creativity. Being overwhelmed is somewhat of a prerequisite to being in university and hopefully, when we are overcome by everything else in life, we remember this lesson we learned and find a way to breathe again.