2020: Goodbye and Good Riddance!
The year 2020 has fervently tested my relationship with my girlfriend, my mental and physical health, and has confronted me with unprecedented challenges beyond even my wildest dreams (to date)... Like many others, reflecting on the conclusion of the year, it is so easy to pick at the plethora of negative things that have transpired this year, but this year, I am so grateful to have partaken in so many growth experiences towards new heights: Buying my first house, achieving career advancement opportunities, graduating with my Master’s Degree, working for the state office of the arts, starting new partnerships with local businesses, and selling me art & commissions at a new 3-year high. Having had over a week to step back and decompress, I’m now reflecting macro to think BIG about the future of the arts, culture, and media in the new year and moving forward.
It’s part of my nature to constantly look at the positive and growth. What the 2020 year showed us was an ugly and unorthodox cultural paradigmatic shift, that laid bare the role of Art in our daily lives. If you look at every large scale shift in culture over the course of human history, Art has been at the core documenting and recording every major change. Looking local, this year’s economic downturn sadly closed many non-profit galleries & organizations. It left others in disarray with no project plans or opportunities in sight. It left Gallery Managers with new problems to manage and Art Administrators frantically searching for answers, and the world of talented artists in the dark nervously awaiting the unknown future that awaits them.
Arts. Culture. Media.
With the nation’s outcry over Covid-19 regulations, protesting police brutality, and justice system reform, it reflected a few of many issues that ignited a rise in public art. Murals, Art Activism, Integrated Sculpture, Memorials, and new media forms have risen to the forefront prompted by a huge call to action. We also witnessed a double down investment on digital platforms and media for the many creators producing art. Many artists that were able to sustain their creative practice shifted Digital painting, graphic design, and illustration through applications like ProCreate, Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator and so on. Virtual Galleries have risen as the short-term solution to contactless experiences with traditional arts. They also reflect long-term solutions for galleries documenting and archiving work and allow instructional teaching in intimate 1-on-1 and small group experiences.
As a culture many of the formal subject matters got an extreme makeover. As I mentioned earlier, certain art forms took a backseat (publicly) to an onslaught of new media. In 2020, time, exposure, and reach was of the essence with an oversaturated news cycle. The poignant messages of creative minds took the shape of GIFs and Memes. This emergent trending culture of GIFs and Memes are expedient, consumable, and acutely powerful outlets. For artists such as myself, they are so viable because they can digest the stories of today to reflect the culture of tomorrow. Twitter, Instagram, and social platforms have tremendous power reach and exposure enough so that any story has legs with the right amount of circulation through likes, comments, and shares. In my personal opinion, I feel today’s state of journalism has shown ‘cracks in the foundation’, but positively speaking, social media and cell phones have prompted the everyday person into participatory journalism or collaborative media. Information now transcends all borders at the speed of light! I recognize this is slightly hyperbolic on my part, but I firmly feel that collaborative media and guerrilla art forms mirror each other at their ethos. Spearheading 2021, this culture pleads for creatives to communicate daily by means of public art forms that inspire us, challenge us, recontextualize us, and reshape our thinking.
With a digital overhaul and much of the workforce working remotely, many advertising agencies were faced with huge workforce transitions. More notably, media and content developers had to find new ways to produce their work and collaborate from a distance. In 2020, the goal post for impactful content changed, and many brands and their companies took up cause marketing and activist measures through long-form advertisements and a spiking rise in original content. The public cried out in response to a plethora of issues, and advertisers listened. That frozen pizza you loved now sells its craving with a press to vote and a reminder to wear your mask. Causes in climate change, cancer research, and public services came home in family shopping bags at historically high rates. Many brands reinforced their sides and some pivoted to publicly shift into a new chapter of their company. Long form ads were formatted as (essentially) ‘mini-movies’, so creatives and ad marketers found newly integrated ways to publish their work. The service of advertising has always been slightly trivial by its mere nature, but with companies keenly seeking original content as their differentiation point from competitors it reflects the public’s insatiable appetite for seeking art and creation in new places.
In my estimation today’s consumers no longer necessitate brand collaborations, product hybrids, and cross-merchandising promotional tactics. Target segmentation has become increasingly difficult by bearing less fruit in statistical impressions every quarter. Amid this economic uncertainty, consumers are seeking a restoration of trust in their brands and a swift confidence in their purchase. This effect comes in a repackaging of their message, and a willful investment towards original content- visually storytelling these events of our time.
Where did we thrive?
Time for some 2020 Hindsight: What have we seen from this past year? From an artist’s perspective, I have witnessed the tremendous lift in public art initiatives across the state, nationally, and globally. I have seen a short term dependence on virtual experience of art that bears both its pros and cons for the future. Thirdly, the proliferation in creating with new media has allowed for messages and information to move boundlessly at a historic pace. From a cultural standpoint, collaborative media has become king. We have also seen GIFs and memes as two reigning vehicles of media that occur daily to push interpersonal communication, form new relationships, and spread new ideas that shape us.
From my ad. & MarCom perspective, 2020 prompted an attentive boost in cause marketing through activism. Brands and companies that maximize the historical efforts of the people do so by standing in alliance with causes worth dying for. With the markets changing drastically by the day, people rest on the brands they know and love. Today’s consumers rely on their brands for confidence in their purchases and a level of reassurance; New methods of long form advertising and original content are paramount regarding the strategies & tactics that companies use to navigate the market and connect with people. The ability to creatively channel humor, horror, or passion in order to inspire others, challenge us, inform others, and reshape us should serve as primary goal for brands in this changing economy.
In the new year, I have grown in maturation, shifted my perspectives, and adopted a critical lens for a creative culture. I look forward to seeing the headlines to come and the way we grow as a country of creators.