Many creative professionals are remote workers by circumstance. The galleries or museums they exhibit or curate at, the studios of our peers and collaborators that we visit, or even open spaces that are being transformed. In addition to any studio or office space many of may have, it would not be surprising to that many of us may even have a dedicated area at home for work, or that our car is second office.
The pandemic has changed the way many of us work, view work and expectations we want from work. Some places stopped showing work or exhibiting new shows for months during the pandemic. In some cases, galleries and exhibits have even closed down permanently, leaving the art world a little bit smaller. Studio and office spaces became echoes of their former glory as many worked from home. Whether it was due to being ill or fear of getting ill the pandemic has perpetually changed how many of us view our relationship with work and how it can actually be accomplished, and adopted new techniques in an effort to stay diligent.
The Work Routine
Whether you were at your studio at 8am sharp, or “I come in, in the evenings,” type of person, there was a routine to your work-life balance. Whether that routine was detailed specific, or loosely held together, it was still there and affected perhaps how you communicated and worked with others.
When the pandemic hit, work-life balance for almost everyone changed drastically. More people were working from home, and the lines that dictated work time and personal time blurred just a little bit. Instead of a short 10 min break in the mornings to stretch your legs around the office, some took the time to load their dishwasher. Your favorite foods and snacks were readily available. You could answer emails and calls after hours if you wanted to. No socializing or office gossip; for some this was great and allowed them to focus on their work, while for others this was detrimental and made them feel isolated.
As creative professionals, many may not have seen these changes occur in their daily routine. From all my visits and tours to various studio spaces and collectives, I have never noticed a “Hours of Operation” sign that you see in front of, let’s say a retail business. Not saying that they need one, not at all. But between working on site at a space, from home, or just flexibility in their time, there is no HR dept to write you up if your studio space isn’t open at 9 AM. Many creative professionals work for themselves, or small agencies where they have greater control of their work life balance. But even if remote work and the pandemic has had limited impact on the industry what it did change however was how the industry worked with others. Museums, galleries, exhibits, curators, brokers, collectors, agents, etc… were all mostly working remote now. Even if communication didn’t break down, interactions did for many.
The Work Response
At the beginning of the pandemic a few years ago, everyone had to make adjustments to their professional lives. For creative professionals, this became challenging as much of work was dependent on others – galleries, exhibits, curators, property managers to name a few. Some were able to adopt new methods to continue, such as online art exhibitions. But this wasn’t feasible industry wide, so like other trades, some creatives were able to flourish, while others saw a slow down during the pandemic.
Those that remained active still faced new challenges however. Working almost completely online and through digital assets required solutions that some were not used to.
As the work life balance continued to become even blurrier, compounded by real world events, many asked Is this going to be the way going forward?
On a recent call to an art center, I was told that they had a high vacancy rate of studio spaces. From what they knew, some were focusing on other careers or jobs as economic uncertainty grew. Others could no longer afford it. As Corporate America went remote, a lot of the commercial buildings became quiet. Demand to decorate and exhibit art in lobbies, hallways and office spaces became stagnant. This affected my creatives.
Creativity is an expensive hobby, but even more expensive career. Storage and studio spaces needed for supplies and work storage can cost as much as an apartment rental. As artists saw demand go down during pandemic, budgets tightened and hard choices had to be made.
Working from home is an option that some creatives chose in order to save on costs, but may not be feasible for everyone. Installation artists, sculptors, craftsmen, etc, may not have the necessary room to work, even more so, store their work. An artist friend recently asked me if I knew of a place they could temporarily store their 400 lbs 9’ wooden sculpture as they were transitioning to a smaller workshop. I don’t even think it would fit in my empty garage spot even…
The pandemic however, did benefit some artists though. As work remote work peaked and demand for digital assets and technology grew exponentially, many digital based professionals saw demand increase. New design, content, media and production work were all in need. Though the recent ascent of AI tools may possibly endanger this demand.
It’s anyone’s guess how long the impacts of Covid will be around for. Though many governments around the world have declared to get back to normal, that still isn’t the case for many. People around the world are still advocating for remote work. Office buildings in downtown centers still sit quiet. Worries about the economy, inflation, among other things have many making tougher financial decisions. For some, it may dictate whether they want to purchase that new art piece or not.
So how can creative professionals realign their business strategy?
As many have done so already, artists and related industry professionals will need to transform their business digitally. From galleries showcasing more virtual shows, streaming events, or rebranding and promoting work online through your portfolio and artist brand, more effort will be required online.
In one recent instance, Viable Studios helped create an online webinar environment where he could continue to teach art classes that until recently, he was no long able to do since because of Covid.
Many creatives will have to find alternatives to routines and activities they used to do. The transition may not be easy for all, and not all mediums may be digitally friendly, but not adapting could be far worse.