Like many, Jessica Ruth Freedman has felt the wrath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Naturally, the last 12 months for the Sooke artist haven’t gone exactly to plan. The art world was shaken by the pandemic: museums, art fairs, markets, in-studio visits and galleries shut down.
“I’m trying not to think of it as a bad thing. I’m trying to think as something positive as I move forward,” said Freedman, 48.
Last year, all six art fairs she planned to attend were cancelled, and the same is likely for 2021.
Freedman, who works in mixed media, is one of the fortunate ones as she’s been able to sell many of her works online and through social media, but it hasn’t been easy.
“I had a very strange 2020,” Freedman said. “I sold everything I had online, but that was due to my strong online and social media presence. If that weren’t the case, 2020 would have been wiped out completely.”
Like Freedman, most Canadian artists and creative entrepreneurs have faced unique challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Freedman said to thrive through the pandemic, and beyond, they require a comprehensive set of supports. It isn’t easy in Canada to find a unified place where artists can find information on funding grants, programs, how to sell and distribute their work, and even connect with other artisans.
Artscape has developed artsUNITE, a free, comprehensive and centralized online wayfinding platform to meet this need. The platform is curated by a collaborative network of arts organizations from across the country, designed to be diverse and accessible by all who can benefit.
The platform maximizes equitable access to resources in funding, work, services, learning and emergency support to build community resiliency and create an environment for artists to thrive. Organizers said this would support creatives through the current economic crisis and equip artists with adaptive supports for long-term sector recovery and regeneration.
Freedman is one of nine virtual in-residence artists who share the creative process, conduct webinars, write and offer sage advice. The artists come from many disciplines, from theatre to art to photography and dance.
By working with partners across the nation, artsUNITE is in a position to educate and employ Canadian artists and creatives, said Tim Jones, CEO of artsUNITE founding partner Artscape.
“It’s been invaluable. We all have the same challenges across Canada, especially during this pandemic,” Freedman said.