COVID-19 pandemic caused economic shutdowns across the US, over 40 million Americans have filed jobless claims. Although shutdowns are necessary to fight the spread of the virus, they are having widespread consequences for people living paycheck to paycheck. The art community is not exempt from these hardships. Artists, many of whom are freelancers or hourly workers without full-time employment with benefits, have been impacted by the closure of shows, galleries, and museums, as minimal to no financial support or compensation are provided. One of our artists spoke to us about how the coronavirus pandemic and economic shutdown have affected her work.
Nikitha Yelchuru is a skilled artist who creates intricate jewelry and artwork by rolling and gluing strips of paper in a process known as quilling. In 2016, she founded Paper Sweetly in response to the overwhelming support she received from her family and friends. On top of selling her art on Etsy, at shows, and at Modern Mouse, Nikitha has also partnered with Jezuba in the last year. Typically, she participates in twenty art shows or events per year, but that all changed back in March. Every show she had lined up for the rest of this year has been canceled, and it’s unclear how many more will have to shut down in the face of this pandemic. The inability to have in-person business puts a huge financial and social burden on artists. Shows and festivals provide creators with a unique opportunity to meet and connect with potential buyers face to face. It’s in these moments that artists build relationships with the potential to last long after the event is over.
Luckily, Nikitha is both resilient and positive despite the challenges she and other artists are facing. She has been using her extra time to explore her creativity by designing new jewelry, artwork, and large-scale pieces that she didn’t have the time to attempt before. Nikitha said that she doesn’t mind if her sales are down because creating artwork is her way to find happiness. Although she must rely on online sales for now, Nikitha looks forward to starting shows again and reconnecting with the art community.
In addition to improving her artwork, Nikitha has been partnering with SHINE NGO since the end of February to train women in India how to make quilled earrings. SHINE works with marginalized communities in Hyderabad to help women learn vocational skills and provide them with financial support. Nikitha is hopeful that her efforts will support women during the pandemic by providing them with a way to earn extra income while staying at home. In upcoming years, Nikitha will be selling these women’s creations to help them reach economic security. The pandemic has turned our world upside down, but we can learn to adapt and support one another by sharing our knowledge and resources with those who need it most. When Nikitha spoke about collaborating with Jezuba, she said: “I’ve always wanted to give back to disadvantaged communities and Jezuba gave me an opportunity to use my art to do so. It has been a wonderful experience so far and I’m looking forward to more future collaborations.” Nikitha is constantly looking for ways to help others and we’d all do well to follow her example.
If you would like to support Nikitha’s work you can purchase her art in our shop and read more about her on our Artists & Makers page. You can also donate to one of the following organizations which support artists who are disproportionately harmed during economic crises:
- Arts Administrators of Color https://aacnetwork.org/
- Black Art Futures Fund https://www.blackartfutures.org/
- The House of Malico http://www.thehouseofmalico.com/
- EastSide Arts Alliance https://www.eastsideartsalliance.org/
Artist & Makers Program Manager