It seems as though creating art has been one way that people have been keeping themselves mentally and emotionally healthy during what has otherwise been a trying year. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror

It seems as though creating art has been one way that people have been keeping themselves mentally and emotionally healthy during what has otherwise been a trying year. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror

Using art to conquer COVID blues

It seems people have been turning to their creative sides to stay mentally and emotionally healthy

Art has a way of bringing people together, even when they’re apart.

It also, as it turns out, is one way people in Campbell River have been coping with the stresses of the last year.

With ever-changing restrictions on what we can and can’t do, where we can and can’t go and who we can and can’t see, at least one thing has remained constant: the increasing number of people who are exploring their creative side.

Eleven months ago, as the reality of the global pandemic was setting in, Nadia Rieger, owner and teacher at The Crows Nest Artist Collective in Willow Point, was scared the business she’d worked so hard to start – and then expand – would soon come to an end.

The bulk of Crows Nest’s revenue was in hosting relatively large groups of people for art classes in various mediums. That suddenly came to a screeching halt when gathering restrictions began to be put in place by the provincial health officer.

“My business has always been in educating people,” Rieger says. “But that part of what I do had to be rolled back substantially. I had to do a total 180, because I had to take the largest part of my business – and how the business was succeeding – and change it entirely. I had groups of 45 people booked to do classes right before the pandemic hit – I had five of those booked – and then suddenly we were told it couldn’t be more than six people at a time.”

RELATED: Creating a nest for artistic opportunity

But people kept coming in for art supplies to make art at home.

She didn’t have a ton of art supplies – she had a few, but that wasn’t really her focus – so she started ordering more. She also started offering her classes in a video format and selling the kits people would need to accomplish what she was teaching. She found herself having trouble keeping up with the demand for products because she had been so focused on in-house teaching since she started the business.

“If the Crows Nest was going to survive, we had to pivot hard, and it was clear that the need we were going to have to help fill was providing ways for people to make art at home, and we’re happy to have been able to do that.

“Ultimately, we are surviving because people need art right now. 100 per cent.”

Ken Blackburn, executive director of the Campbell River Arts Council, thinks he knows why that is. Why do people need art right now, maybe more than ever?

“There’s one word that has a lot of different connotations as to why I think that the arts are being seen as having more value right now, and that’s the word ‘connection,’” Blackburn says. “Connection goes a few ways. The arts in a community works to connect us. That’s what it does, whether it’s dance, theatre, music, visual art, whatever. That’s why it’s such a key component within communities: they connect us.”

But even when the arts can’t connect us literally, there’s another “connection” they serve.

“The other thing they do is make a personal connection,” Blackburn says. “They connect us to ourselves, or to our childhood, or to a time that we saw ourselves with more freedom and liberation. Art takes us out of our stresses, our work routines, or in this case, our isolations.”

But using art to heal and provide emotional support isn’t a new idea, nor is it unique to periods of isolation – or a pandemic.

“Art Therapy has a long history as a discipline, and the therapeutic value of the arts has been well documented,” Blackburn says. “I’ve been giving talks about this at conferences for over 15 years and talking about (the art council’s) Art in Health initiative at the hospital. There’s no shortage of research – across the entire breadth of the arts, whether it’s visual arts or music or dance – of the therapeutic value of the arts. Medical schools are even starting to introduce it into their training programs.”

And based on the art he’s seen that has been produced within the community over the past year, he can see the difference a pandemic has made. He was recently part of hanging the annual Members’ Show – which he has done for the past 15-plus years – and says there are new names he didn’t recognize, and it’s “probably also the strongest Members’ Show I’ve seen.”

RELATED: Art Gallery director reflects on ‘maybe our hardest year ever’

“It would be an interesting exercise to sit in there for a couple of hours with that critical eye and try to figure out, ‘Is there something COVID here?’ that over-arches the show?”

But if others are experiencing their own art like he’s been experiencing his own, he thinks it’s likely.

“Personally, I’ve returned into landscape as a coping mechanism,” he says. “I’m seeing in landscape the unpredictability of landscape – and of the sky, in particular – and that’s been reflecting how I feel about the world right now.”

His hope now, however, is that people’s love and embracing of art doesn’t slip away with the virus.

“It will be essentially important to hold onto this,” he says. “Anybody who thinks we should go back to the way things were before COVID is delusional, what with all of the problems we already had. We want to shift the status quo now that we have that opportunity, and one of the ways we can do that, significantly, within the community, is to have more connection.

“And that’s what the arts do.”



miked@campbellrivermirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

ArtCampbell RiverCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

BC Rent Bank helps people stay out of homelessness. Black Press stock photo
BC Rent Bank pitched for Campbell River

Program provides loans to keep people housed

Comox Strathcona Waste Management is planning webinars for the public to see the preliminary designs for the new composting facility. Photo CSWM
Preliminary designs for CSWM composting facility released

CSWM wants feedback on designs, holding two webinars next week

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Campbell River automobile dealership reports positive COVID test result

Campbell River automobile dealership Steve Marshall Ford has announced a temporary closure… Continue reading

The Campbell River and District Coalition to End Homelessness will be working towards having people with lived experience of homelessness at the table with a new peer advisory group. Photo courtesy Zoom.
Campbell River Coalition to End Homelessness to include people with lived experience at the table

Coalition and Urban Indigenous Housing group starting peer advisory working group

Greg Janicki (left), owner of Dogwood Pet Mart rasied $410 this year for the Campbell River SPCA’s Loonies for Love fundraiser which he presented to Stephanie Arkwright, branch manager of the BCSPCA – Campbell River Community Animal Centre. Photo contributed
Pandemic doesn’t stop annual Loonies for Love SPCA fundraiser

Fundraising has been a bit challenging over the past year, but the… Continue reading

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Malawian police guard AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines after the shipment arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi, Friday March 5, 2021. Canada is expecting its first shipments of AstraZeneca vaccine next week. (Associated Press/Thoko Chikondi)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 cases climb to 634 Friday, four more deaths

Currently 255 people in hospital, 66 in intensive care

A crashed helicopter is seen near Mt. Gardner on Bowen Island on Friday March 5, 2021. Two people were taken to hospital in serious but stable condition after the crash. (Irene Paulus/contributed)
2 people in serious condition after helicopter goes down on Bowen Island

Unclear how many passengers aboard and unclear where the helicopter was going

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

Supporters rally outside court as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church is in court to appeal bail conditions, after he was arrested for holding day services in violation of COVID-19 rules, in Edmonton, Alta., on Thursday March 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
‘Law remains valid:’ Pastor accused of violating health orders to remain in jail

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms is representing the pastor

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

Chief Don Tom of the Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA reveals COVID-19 outbreak

Tsartlip First Nation chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA apologizes

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Most Read