Amidst conflicting news of lockdown extensions and measures being lifted from different countries, many of us are left confused—while others seem to be rapidly adjusting to their new reality. Whether we’re restless or lethargic, let’s just agree that we can all find solace in the endless pit that is our Instagram feed. For some, however, Instagram is more than just a way to waste twenty minutes (to three hours), it is an essential community building tool—a feature and virtue that is not being taken for granted during these times, especially by those who are isolating alone.
With this in mind, visual artist Chloe Sheppard started the @isolationartclub, an Instagram page that leaves little prompts for each day of lockdown, inviting users to create art in response to each theme. The best submissions for each day are reposted—providing followers with not only great content but also engaging activities and the encouragement to use art as an outlet during these rather stressful times. Sheppard spoke to INDIE about her inspirations, thoughts on the current crisis climate and how she imagines the platform moving forward.
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Where did the idea for @isolationartclub come from?
It started on a Monday, I think it was the middle of March, sort of when all of this really started to become serious in the UK about isolating. Being alone at home with no family I just felt so lonely and figured so many people must have been feeling the same. Having an audience at my fingertips means I’m lucky to know I have a community to reach out to who’d be into projects like this, so it was great how many people got on board with it and started submitting work. As cliché as it sounds, art is always what I turn to when I’m most lost, whether it be through making my own art or reading/watching/listening to something, it can always be a distraction for me. I also wanted to encourage people to take the “stay home” message seriously, so I figured staying home to make art would be a perfect excuse.
What are you hoping to inspire in your followers with this project?
There is no pressure really, it’s more that if you find making art cathartic, especially at a time like this when we really have no control over so many things, then having a new prompt to focus on each day could be quite helpful. Sometimes it is the same people who submit everyday, others dip in and out when they feel like it—which is cool because it means people know the club is there if they want to feel ‘productive’. If they just want to stay in bed and do nothing all day (like I have, a lot) then there is no harm in that either. Art has always brought people together and right now it feels important to harness that.
Instagram’s role in community building is more relevant than ever. What is its importance as a platform for you and for artists in general?
It’s just a great tool for sharing work and building an audience that cares about the same messages you do. A lot of my work focuses on fat positivity and trying to talk about that, so a lot of my followers are also passionate about that, which is good because if I was relying on galleries/big art world people to share my work, I don’t think I’d have much of an audience at all. There are so many benefits to using Instagram as your main platform for sharing work but also a lot of downsides too—it’s hard to find the balance sometimes and not be overwhelmed by everything we’re consuming. I think especially right now, people are realising how trained we have become to constantly be pushing out new work and how that really is counterproductive. At such an isolating time with this lockdown, I think the best way artists are using instagram is just to try and connect with other people so we feel less alone.
Are you happy with the provisions made by the government to support artists & freelancers at this time? Do you know of any other avenues the creative community can turn to for support?
In the UK they are intending to do a self-employed scheme that freelancers should be able to get money from, but it doesn’t start until June. It is frustrating and I feel as though the self employed are always the last to be considered, especially within the arts, so I guess we will see what happens when June comes around.
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Do you plan on keeping the art club alive after quarantine? Perhaps with a different purpose?
It would be nice to! I guess I’ll just see what happens but it would feel a waste to shut it down just because we can go back to normal life. I keep thinking of ideas around this, maybe I’ll reach out to the followers and see what they think would be best to do haha.
What are some other activities you’re doing to keep yourself busy during this time?
Reading, binge watching Supernatural, making cyanotypes and that is pretty much it. I have felt really unmotivated to do anything at all most days, and usually I’d feel quite guilty about that, but right now the best we can do is just stay home and keep ourselves above water.