Jay WAHL
Producing Artistic Director, Kimmel Center For The Performing Arts, Philadelphia, USA
Insight from "Innovative Approaches and Creative Practices in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic"

Jay kicked off pointing out how the awareness of public space in the world is suddenly very acute in COVID-19. Public space is at the intersection of civic, social, and artistic life. Where Jay is based at Kimmel Center for the Performing Art is a great example. Primarily a collection of indoor venues, it also produces pieces in public space, such as the production Cristal Palace (2018) by Transe Express set up a band on a chandelier in the air at the waterfront and thus changed the relationship between performances and public space. IN SITU, an artist network spreading across 12 countries in Europe and beyond, keeps questioning how artists can engage with public space through interventions, as “acupuncture on the city through artistic practice”. The People’s Tower (2017) by Olivier Grossetete reminded citizens how we all are responsible for creating and changing the city via constructing a 10-storey cardboard tower with over 1,000 people and dismantling it again in 24 hours. Tape Riot (2018) by Asphalt Piloten created a new urban landscape on top of an existing one through tape, sound and bodies.

 

In response to the pandemic, artists, who are experiencing tremendous difficulties with unstable income and lack of health insurance, are still doing an amazing job to bring people together.

Murals with message of washing hands and #VoteByMailPHL campaigns show the civic responsibility artists carry voluntarily. Changing art forms mean orchestra streaming performances, and the birth of projects like Music for Moms from the Kimmel Center - artists composing and sending songs to personal audiences; or Radio Local by Hunt & Darton - an online program providing hyper local information and rethinks how performance connects with us; 100 artists created 100 curated walks in Copenhagen, reframing public space through artists’ representations. And of course, we have all seen photos of rainbows Americans put up at homes. “Artists are our collective memory, our collective consciousness, artists really help us with understanding of what's happening.”

This heightened awareness of public space that I think the virus is giving us is creating an opportunity for artists. Artists have fundamentally a desire to help, a desire to make change and a desire to bring people together. So who better to lead the way in healing for all of us than the arts community?