Lisa A. Kramer

Author, Speaker, Theater Artist, Creativity Facilitator

Creative Culture after Covid-19: A Society Re-Design

Hello all!

I thought I would share this post that I originally published on LinkedIn, as it says everything I want to say.

Creative Culture After Covid-19: A Society Re-Design

If we’ve learned anything from this complex confusing situation of pandemic, it’s the fact that we cannot go back to the “norm” that existed before. Some may disagree with me about this, thinking that leaping back into “business as usual” will heal a broken society. I don’t believe that we can, or even should, return to what came before. We need to work toward something new. We need a society redesign that embraces creativity, kindness, the voices of the people, and our common humanity over oligarchy and elite control. We need to take the gifts, attitudes, and skills of the true heroes of this time, and incorporate them into business to make a society that moves in a different way than pure capitalism.

The evidence lies in what we are witnessing behind the scenes of social distancing. What do I mean by this?

Well, we know the true heroes of the moment are the front-line workers that keep us functioning when nothing is normal: the medical personnel, the grocery store employees, the mail carriers, the truck drivers, the garbage collectors, and so on. I am truly grateful for all of them.

However, I have witnessed other heroes as well. The educators who struggle to learn a completely new system of delivering education in an attempt to help our young people feel some semblance of normalcy and possibility. The creative artists, many of whom have little to no income at the moment, offering pieces of their artistic souls FOR FREE to the world at large in order to inspire hope. The parents juggling work and trying to educate and entertain their emotional families. The single people striving to stay inspired when they have no access to human contact, other than through technology.

I’ve wandered through museums, witnessed concerts, watched plays, participated in workshops, been inspired by songs or art pieces—all gifted to us by people who may not know when they will next see work, or sell a piece, get a paycheck, or have a live audience. Individuals of all types have been developing online moments where people can connect with one another, whether through a game, a discussion group, a pep talk, a social hour, or a play session with artists.

With a few exceptions, the heroes of this period are not the business leaders who are pushing to get us back to business as usual. In terms of business, the heroes are the ones doing everything they can to keep their employees paid and insured. There is no hero in the failed system of tying health insurance to work, as more people face unemployment and thus loss of benefits. Again, with a few exceptions, the heroes aren’t found in the federal government, although one can argue there are a few heroes at the state level.

The heroes are not the people ignoring stay-at-home orders to protest their right to live (and die) freely—hypocritically claiming that they should have control of their own bodies. The true heroes are the people caring enough to stay home. The people working every day to provide a sense of hope for themselves, their families, and their community. The people who understand and accept that life is not normal at the moment, but we still have to live. The people pushing through their mourning, loss, sadness, and broken hearts as they are forced to say farewell to loved ones without being able to see them in person. The people attempting, minute by minute, to make this moment in time better, knowing that in the end we will come out stronger, if not forever changed.

The key factor that makes all of these people heroes at this time, is that they care about others and are attempting to build stronger connections even as we must remain 6 feet apart. They are sharing goodness, kindness, inspiration, ideas, creativity, recipes, crafts, love, hope, and sometimes even material goods when possible. This is the spirit that we need to carry forward once we can return to a world of real-life interactions.

What I am arguing for is a society that values—in addition to profit—creativity, community, kindness, and basic humanity. I want a society that recognizes and values the contributions of those who create and do work, not just the contributions of so-called “job creators” and owners of work. The other day I read a post from a music teacher concerned that arts instructors (particularly theatre and music) would be laid off, because our work deals so much with being in contact with other human beings. Schools in the area have been discussing ways to bring students back, including small groups on alternating days. But that may not be practical when the very nature of the art being taught requires exchange of breath (through singing, playing instruments, performing together). This post broke my heart, because we have been experiencing how important the arts are to society, as it is one of the things keeping us together in our separation. Just as the work of the essential workers keep us all supplied with necessities including (on rare occasions) toilet paper. When things go back to “normal” will the arts again be pushed aside in schools and society? Will essential workers in grocery stores again be treated like invisible beings there to serve people who have more important jobs?

My hope is that we will all learn, grow, and change from this experience. Creative people will no longer be offered the chance of “exposure” and low pay for the work they do. Essential workers who keep our stores and businesses functioning will earn actual living wages so that they can actually live, not just live to work and work multiple jobs. Everyone will have access to health care without breaking the bank or going into debt. Businesses will look at their structures and redesign their approach to put connections, humanity, and the world first over exorbitant profit. I hope that companies who only think about profit lose out to companies that find a healthier balance. This is the society re-design we need. The challenge will be how to make it happen. Will we learn? Time will tell—the time that it takes to move beyond this pandemic into a brighter future.