I am working from home today on the fourth day of the new normal. I am sitting at the desk that my partner Ryan helped me haul upstairs to our bedroom so I would have a quiet spot while our three kids are home from school. We are navigating the uncharted waters of a global pandemic, me from my laptop and him from the call center at the Ohio Department of Health. I have been putting off writing this post for two months – a post about why we used to be VSA Ohio and now we are Art Possible Ohio – because so many other things were so pressing – budgets, grant reports, exhibition adjudication, event preparations, school visits, meetings, meetings, meetings, and email. So. Much. Email. Last week all of that fell away to a certain extent and was replaced by the feeling that we have a lot to do in doing less. That as community members we needed to look around us and pause, reprioritize, and slow down.
As I was finishing up an email today and in it, typing our new name, Art Possible Ohio, I had a moment of pause. Possible. In deciding our new name we worked with GSW Columbus (holla!). They walked us through the brand pyramid process, helping us hone our brand identity and values. The essence of our brand, the tippy top of the pyramid was possibility. Our organization advocates for and works with artists with disabilities to make art possible where art was not possible before because of isolation, lack of funding, or a general feeling that “the arts are not for someone like me.”
Access to arts and cultural experiences is a fundamental human right. Like health, safety, community, the arts are essential to our growth, development, and sense of self. The arts offer us the possibility of a world that is better, communities that are stronger, and souls and hearts that are fuller. The arts continually ask us, “What if…”
As we each sit in our corner of the world, physically distancing ourselves from one another to keep each other safe and healthy, consider the role of creativity in this crisis at this moment in time. Consider how we have imagined ways to slow the spread of coronavirus by considering the history of infectious disease; how people have brainstormed ways for the healthy among us to serve those in need; how we saw the need to be at home, telecommute, care for our families and we accessed our humanity and said – yes. We will figure it out.
Consider how many times Dr. Amy Acton of the Ohio Department of Health has stood next to Governor Mike DeWine and asked us to grapple with the most difficult aspect of creativity – tolerating ambiguity. This is what we mean when we think about the boundless possibilities that open up to us through the arts and why it is so critical that everyone have access to them. Each of us approaches a health crisis with the gift of our lived experience. The more diverse those experiences are the more creative and impactful the possibilities become, the more we are designing a world that is for everyone and not just those in positions of power and privilege.
The new normal will hopefully mean that we step away from the concept of “normal” and instead embrace flexibility, inclusivity, accessibility, and above all, possibility.