A recent survey conducted by a leading newspaper in Singapore showed that most of its readers believed artists were inessential.
A majority of respondents felt the job of an artist counted as "non-essential" with almost 71 percent agreeing with the same. Professions that had been deemed essential included that of a doctor, cleaner, delivery man among others.
The fact that art was considered non-essential triggered outrage. After all, the music that helps you get by during monotonous lockdown days or the hours that you spent just 'Netflix n Chilling' would not be possible without art.
While most took to social media to express their anger, Madhu Raghavendra, poet, curator, and social activist, took it upon himself to explain why art is essential. He wrote a poem, titled 'Artist', and put it up on social media. The post has now gone viral and has over two thousand shares.
His poem was in response to the controversial survey, but struck a chord with hundreds of artists globally. In the poem, Raghavendra says that it is okay to take art for granted or deem it non-essential, just the way mothers are often taken for granted until you really need them - or the way water is never the first thing you look for when you get to a party. The poem says that artists are okay being "non-essential" because art is where people will come seeking solace when things go downhill.
"Art is non-essential, until it is not," the poet writes.
Here's the post, in case you haven't seen it already:
From celebrities to comedians both in India and abroad, the poem seemed to resonate with anyone who has ever been made to feel that the work they do is "non-essential." "Not every day a young poet could hope to wake up to find that his poem was travelling across the world and touching lives, especially in times of a pandemic. I am extremely overwhelmed," Raghavendra said.
Raghavendra, who founded Poetry Couture, a poetry movement, has conducted several workshops in schools and other institutions including literary festivals had no idea that his poem would create such ripples worldwide. Clearly, art is not as non-essential as many thought?
Twitter agreed. Here's what people have to say:
No art for you for a week. ONLY a week. And let's see if you keep saying that artists are non essential for nowadays culture. No movies, no magazines, no tv, no comics, remove any decoration outside... People will always assume artists live in a loft throwing buckets at a canvas. https://t.co/MTr5RvUSES— ✧ ʏᴀʀᴏᴍᴇ ✧ (@YaromeART) June 15, 2020
100% true that the job is non essential. However...— yourfreakyneighbourh (@yrfreakyneighbr) June 14, 2020
Try going through quarantine without any YouTube, Netflix or music. Oh, don't forget games, that counts as art too.
This country places absolutely zero value in this occupation. It's been abundantly clear since the start. pic.twitter.com/0evmxndJBI
Well...I hope the artist who created this illustration got paid? pic.twitter.com/I478BHGefN— Graig Kreindler (@GraigKreindler) June 19, 2020
We went through a time period when art was considered non-essential. It was called the Middle Ages ☠️ https://t.co/grJigCJIDc— Brian Corey (@bobo_belinsky) June 20, 2020