This pandemic won’t kill art


HOW does one cope with the Movement Control Order (MCO) that has been extended (again) right up to at least the middle of May?

Naturally, the majority would resort to entertainment of course, such as watching films on home theatre, while many would choose books and music as their escape.

It is important to let our creative side take control to keep us occupied and help us maintain the wellbeing of our mental health.

With performances being cancelled and art venues being forced to shut down, the tourism, arts and creative sector is, without a doubt, badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

People in the creative sector, including filmmakers, artists and performers, are struggling to earn a living during this period as they are unable to work.

Analysts had cautioned that smaller creative companies and freelancers are more likely to face bankruptcy.

Despite all the hardship, the creative minds are still striving to be positive and are creating works that are meant to boost the morale of the frontliners who are toiling 24/7 to save lives.

For instance, artist Mahnaz Yazdani has created a heartbreaking comic strip that depicts the sacrifices of a doctor amid the crisis.

While the doctor convinces the Covid-19 patient that he would get well, the kind caretaker is the one who falls sick as he tends the others to recovery.

Meanwhile, urban sketching group KL Sketch Nation has created their own #coronARTmy movement on Twitter and Instagram pages. Each day, a specific prompt is provided for the artists to follow.

The sketching challenge is aimed at spreading positive messages during the MCO. Such prompts include themes such as preventing fake news, social distancing and family time.

Introducing Programmes to Help Artists

We’ll continue to give our support to artistic practice and operations of Malaysian artists, collectives and arts organisations, says Izan Satrina of Cendana

As part of its effort to support the toppling creative industry, the Cultural Economy Development Agency (Cendana) has rolled out new programmes to help those working in the creative sector to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Based on the data gathered and the various conversations we have had with the arts and culture practitioners, our colleagues at the ministries as well as arts institutions, we have decided to review our existing programmes and roll out new programmes amid Covid-19.

“We’ll continue to give our support to artistic practice and operations of Malaysian artists, collectives and arts organisations,” Cendana founding CEO Izan Satrina Mohd Sallehuddin said.

The new programme, which is called the Create Now Funding Programme, will be cultivating and supporting the artistic development and presentation of ideas in imaginative ways, although there are physical limitations on resources.

Through this initiative, an individual artist or cultural worker would receive RM1,500, while an art collective or organisation would receive RM3,500.

The Create Now Funding Programme will provide an opportunity to explore new ways when it comes to working and experimenting with new forms or ideas.

Moreover, two other new grant programmes that will be added to the list are the Visual Arts Inspire and the Visual Arts Showcase.

Visual Arts Inspire encourages the research excursion to assist in their artistic process and also the creative exploration process.

On the other hand, the Visual Arts Showcase will encourage and support the contemporary expression of visual art through independent, alternative and experimental art venues, artist-run spaces and underserved neighbourhood culture activators.

The Independent Music Funding Programme will be supporting the development and creation of new original or adapted works, live showcases and creation of digital content.

“Through this period of uncertainty, it is by escaping to the arts that we may find joy, whether it is dancing to a familiar tune, painting with our loved ones on what moves us or rediscovering talent with our favourite music instrument,” said Izan Satrina.

She said corporations, foundations and even individual donors are encouraged to lend a helping hand in the arts and culture sector as the agency cannot do it by themselves.

“The hope is that every little bit of monetary or non-monetary support will see our artists, collectives and arts organisations’ artistry thriving through these times. If the vibrancy of the nation is our collective responsibility, we will need to collaboratively work on stabilising the arts and culture sector.”

Moreover, to continue its support for the wider creative communities, MyCreative Ventures Sdn Bhd (MyCV) will be providing sales support for the fashion and publishing industry and financing its facilities.

In conjunction with the upcoming Hari Raya, they will also introduce their first virtual curated platform with RIUH.

Help from the Ministry

In order to help the creative industries sector grow and develop during the Covid-19 crisis, the Ministry of Communications and Multimedia has been constantly reviewing the implementation of government policies and programmes.

This would enable more job openings and creative content which can be generated through the agencies under the ministry.

The ‘Wayang Tube’ art installation down the lane at the River of Life site in Kuala Lumpur. With art venues being forced to shut down, the tourism, arts and creative sector is badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic

According to the Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail, the Covid-19 crisis has a significant impact on everyone, including the ones working in the arts and culture sector. “All public gatherings, performances and exhibitions have been cancelled or postponed in the interests of Malaysia’s collective wellbeing.

“As a result of this, MyCV and its subsidiaries, my team and I, have been in regular contact with the local arts and culture communities to understand their needs during this pandemic,” he said.

The minister is also glad to share that via the Prihatin Rakyat economic stimulus package, funding programmes and other efforts with MyCV, Cendana and RIUH, he hopes artists, collectives and arts organisations would be given time to stabilise, reflect and adapt accordingly after MCO.

Going Virtual

Currently, ARTO Movement is running a virtual art exhibition entitled ‘VIRTUE(AL)’ until the end of MCO

ARTO Movement founder Muhammad Amir Amin Mohd Idris, or better known as Tuk Kura, said the funds that are provided by Cendana might not be sufficient, but it would surely help in keeping the arts alive.

“If we get the fund, we will start a new project with the fund” he said.

Currently, they are running a virtual art exhibition entitled “VIRTUE(AL)” until the end of MCO which can be accessed via this link:

It features 83 artworks ranging from drawings and paintings to digital arts from 57 artists via open call.

Tuk Kura said there is a silver lining underneath the pandemic.

By going to the virtual space, galleries can let everyone who has the Internet connection to browse and appreciate the works of art in the comfort of their home

“People start to go online more and more. The galleries are doing so and in a way, it is sort of democratising the art.

“The galleries are liberating the arts from the ‘obligation’ of the arts that need to be exhibited in a physical space,” said Tuk Kura.

He said with the emergence of virtual exhibitions, art will no longer be seen as only for the elitist and exclusive commodity.

“By going to the virtual space, galleries can let everyone who has the Internet connection to browse and appreciate the works of art in the comfort of their home.

“It also helps spur the industry as a whole in developing new ways for the galleries to develop their digital profiles,” Tuk Kura said.

Therefore, “VIRTUE(AL)” is about learning things we can learn during social distancing. “The virtue, which is synonymous with morality, is what we are trying to look for; to find meaning out of this great ordeal. This exhibition takes note of the ability to spread meaningful messages to everyone available.”

After the MCO is lifted, they are planning to host ARToFest in October.

If the situation of the Covid-19 is still getting worse, then, they will stick with online exhibitions.