The Impact of COVID on Art and Design: Three Predictions

Edited by Katie Constantine ; Cover Image: Mi Casa is Your Casa 2.0, on view in the Boston Seaport

The COVID-19 pandemic is a disruptive event that has impacted every sector of society and the arts are no exception. As we approach the one year anniversary of widespread shutdowns across the United States and the world, we’re able to look forward and think about how the pandemic will change art and design in the years to come.  

Prediction  1: Increase in Public Art

Image: Jon Burgerman’s installation of “Looking Out for Eachother” currently on view in Boston Seaport.

As of writing this article, many states currently have capacity limits on venues like museums and galleries. Even after these restrictions are lifted, I believe that people will be (rightfully) skeptical about returning to indoor spaces. While I have always had a soft spot for public art because of its role in democratizing the arts, I think the ability to see art outside in a socially distanced manner will become a necessity as we try and create a new normal. One example of this is the Mi Casa, Your Casa 2.0 by Esrawe and Cadena, currently on view in the Boston Seaport through March 14th 2021. 

Prediction 2: Increased Digitization (and hopefully Democratization)

This is a trend born of necessity to continue conducting business during the pandemic that I expect to continue long after everyone is vaccinated. Digitization has allowed for convenience and has implications for a variety of media. Throughout the pandemic, museums have hosted digital exhibits and events to allow visitors to continue interacting with the collections. Some auction houses have increased the extent to which information about items is available online. For example, there was a recent auction for memorabilia from the historic Waldorf-Astoria hotel in which items were catalogued and bid upon online. And lastly many production companies have recently started to release their movies simultaneously to cinemas as well as to streaming platforms, such as HBO Max

It’s impossible to deny the fact that increased utilization of technology has been incredibly convenient and allowed a sense of normalcy to prevail in unprecedented times. Additionally, while not a perfectly equitable solution, digitization allows for a wider population to interact with the arts. So, I  view this increased access as largely a positive development that I hope to see continued in the years to come.

Prediction 3: Emphasis on the home office and general separation of spaces

One year into the pandemic, many are still working from home and many different think pieces have espoused the difficulties of working and living at the same table (literally). Even if we do return to office, it is unlikely that any company will want to continue utilizing an open plan office for safety reasons. I think it’s highly unlikely that the majority of companies will want to or be able to return to a fully in-person model once the pandemic is over. At best, I think that people will appreciate a hybrid work from home/in office approach but I have also heard of several companies (mine included) that will be fully remote moving forward. This all begs the question then of how we will reconfigure our homes to reflect this change. Personally, my 1bd/1ba was more than adequate when I was out of the apartment most of the time and only returned to sleep. But contractors are building new apartments that have a dedicated home office space for those who still would like to live in an apartment, and many are actually opting to buy houses. While studio and 1 bedroom apartments will obviously still have a place in the housing market, many are searching for more space and distinctions between where we work and live, even if that has to all be within the same four walls. 

COVID-19 has accelerated some changes that I already thought were coming regardless in terms of integrating technology into the art world. I think there will still (and always be) a place for how we did things before, the in-person gallery events and seeing movies in person on opening weekend. Society as a whole has had to adapt to a new way of living and the changes that will ensure safety or convenience are likely to prevail long after the pandemic.

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