Free form essays

Macha Lemaître: culture and art did not make the “essential services” list

This morning, while reading the news, I learned about a new variant of Сovid-19, which seems very dangerous. The health restrictions are tightening in France, and some neighboring countries have already decided to start another lockdown. My throat tightens.

I remember having the same feeling less than two years ago.

On March 11, 2020, I wanted to start my brand new project, lent a place for it, had friends around me to support it. It would have been a fantastic party, a spring for my art, a great new start.

Instead, we were advised to stay at home. The next day the government officially announced the start of lockdown. I spent a few months in isolation with my partner and our two-year-old son.

Day after day, we had a thousand things to do, and at the same time, nothing was happening. We had anxiety about this unknown virus. I could not go outside, could not tour, did not have any contact with my audience. The pages of social media and news feed became the background of life. Culture and art did not make the “essential services” list.

A thousand questions swirled in my mind every day. What will I do if we don’t reopen? If I had to change careers to survive, what would I do then? I could not find answers.

I participated in some collaborative videos with my artist friends. In one of them, my friend Judith showed our group of friends. I thought it was terrific.

The French government decided to support people with artistic professions who had temporary contracts and released funds to help them. Not every artist made the cut.

I was one of the lucky ones; I should have been happy and waited patiently for the end of the pandemic. But I felt a burning need to create and go back to my audience.

I look at the page, which stays desperately blank because of my lack of inspiration, lack of walks outside, fascinating conversations, and absurd ideas that appear when I look at paintings at the museum or observe people on the subway and the streets. It feels like this hell will never end.

Then, when the number of people getting sick went down, we could go outside again. The restrictions were lifted. I returned to rehearsals and saw my colleagues again; I cried with emotion when I smelled the familiar backstage smell of the theater, a mixture of fireproof paint, dust, and old fears.

I found that my voice had matured; maybe I have done so as well.

It took some time before people were allowed to public performances again. On a cold morning in April, I went to a peaceful protest for the reopening of theaters and concert halls in front of the Odéon theater. I supported the artists and the creators, art students who worked in Paris and other theaters all over France.

Eventually, we got permission to perform in schools again. I rushed into it with a student theater company, to which I owe a lot.

Little by little, we were once again able to organize “real” concerts and play our music. We found that our audience welcomed us back with warmth and gratitude, like seeing old friends years later. Nothing has changed. My life was again full of music; I spent a lot of time on the stage. I was able to relaunch my project; we were playing a lot of concerts, more than ever before.

I lost some connections in this fight. I mourned the death of a stereotypical career only to invent a tailor-made one for myself.

Some mornings were almost careless. Until this morning.

Macha Lemaître is a classical music performer. She grew up in Paris, where she still lives and works today. She studied music at the Normal School of Music in Paris (Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris) and graduated from the Master’s program for adults in Notre Dame de Paris.

In this essay, Macha shares her thoughts about what art and its creators went through during this controversial period between the lockdowns of last year and potential new restrictions.

You can follow her projects at


John Sanchez: when my art took a back seat, family and community got me through the pandemic

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The ongoing pandemic, in many ways, had caused a “reset” of my career. Being a working artist with a family and all its responsibilities comes with many pressures: making ends meet is just one small part, and I can say that I have been more than lucky over the years that many have wanted to obtain my work. 

Before 2020, I managed my finances and juggled my responsibilities well enough. Still, the pressure of making sales and being an effective parent and husband has been mounting for a long time. 

When the pandemic began, it forced me to take a look at the trajectory I was on. I took a break from creating and dived into a “normal” life. I began to work in a totally different field. That had its own challenges, but the biggest of it all has been watching my anxiety rise more and more the longer I am away from my paintbrushes. 

Only recently have I begun coming back to creating in very small ways.

Despite moving from actively creating art for a while, however, I was able to sell quite a few works without much marketing on my part. It looks like being home has given a few of my clients extra time to contemplate more of my work. I even had three commissions that kept me quite busy for a few months. 

Being at home most of the time has created some positive situations. This pandemic was a sort of blessing. Our community grew closer. All four families that live next to us have spent much more time together; we had frequent barbecues and shared food and playtime with our children. 

We faced it together, the good and the bad. A few of our neighbors had family members and friends that unfortunately did not survive. 

My art took a back seat for a while. This new sense of community and family has kept me on an even keel for the most part. Most of us got sick at some point, and the support between us has given me an incredible sense of gratitude. I cannot emphasize how having this connection with others was truly one of the most important aspects of getting through all this. 

I was asked about a lack of balance between people who indulge in art during the pandemic, while the art-makers like me fall on hard times. 

I don’t quite see it as an imbalance, but rather as proof of life being a combination of situations, some of which are self-made, while others are down to luck. I do not have any ill will towards people who have more than others. That is just life. 

Society is not this one thing, but a gathering of individuals, and each person has their own choice or circumstances to deal with. So I do not see society as an entity that should or should not give anything to an artist. Every time we try to implement this idea, we create much worse problems. 

Perhaps, to dive deeper into this subject, I might ask about our collective idea of what art is. It is possible that a perceived imbalance, or lack of support for the artists, might stem from the fact that those, who have the means to support the artists, have a differing idea of what art is? 

I believe that we have been suffering from a gradual eroding of what art is from within our community. There are far too many people that create something and then clamor or demand support for their “non-art.” 

Think about it, does Apple need such support from society for their iPhones or MacBooks? Not at all. Why? Because the value is evident in the product and tends to create lines of people at their stores, hoping to obtain what they are selling. 

A room full of dirt or a pile of bricks in an art gallery has no such value and only serves to challenge viewers (would-be supporters). This “art” often alienates the people. 

It is always nice to hear such phrases as “support the art,” but perhaps we should pause and have a conversation about what art is in the first place. 

If we do this, we might see that many artists are already supported by those that find value in their work. I do not think it is the same for institutions that continually have low attendance or individuals that create objects of questionable value. In my opinion, they need to stop stealing the concept of art or artist in order to gain financial support that is not deserved. I believe art that has value will generally find support.

John Sanchez is an oil painter who grew up in the New York City and New Jersey area. He trained at the Arts Students League of New York and holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Florida International University. John describes his style as realism. He uses his traditional training to portray the modern reality of human life, including coffee shop scenes, uber drivers, and city landscapes. 

He lives with his family in Weston, FL.

You can follow him on Instagram @johnsanchez and see his work at  


Meg West: Pandemic gave me the space and time to concentrate on my art

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The pandemic has affected my art and creative process in a surprisingly wonderful way. I had put my art on the back burner for quite a while, never using it to my advantage. Once the pandemic hit, I ended up losing my main income job, like most of us, but what I did gain was loads of time for creativity and creating.

I finally had time to finish those undone paintings, make stickers and prints I had worked on for a while, and learn new skills I had always wanted to acquire.

The pandemic gave me time to invest in myself and my art. It empowered me to start my small business doing what I love. Being stuck in the house with nowhere to go and nothing to do gifted me the chance to finally get the ball rolling and believe in myself like never before.

Not every day was rainbows and sunshine but waking up knowing all I had to do that day was work on my art, create new ideas, designs and share them with the world made a big difference. This was something I hadn’t had the chance to do ever before. That is happiness right there; that’s how I kept the energy flowing during such a weird time. Although it was a rough and sad year for all, I am grateful for the time, isolation, and what it has done for me as a creator.

Meg West is a young artist who grew up on Cape Cod. She got her degree in illustration from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. She describes her style as colorful, organic, and edgy. She is currently living in Baja California, Mexico, with her boyfriend and two cats.

You can find her art at @castor_creatives on Instagram and contact her at