(left) Miah Michaelsen. Photo by Martin Boling


The arts are having a moment.

Called on to serve as both a witness to tragedy and an inspiration to act, artists have channeled the grief of a nation
into eloquent works of art centered on Black lives, social justice, and economic equality. Never have murals and other extemporaneous art expressions and the artists who create them been as universally recognized as critical to civil discourse and community reflection, identity, and healing as they are now.

And yet.

At this exact same moment, artists and arts organizations in all corners of this community and around the country are also struggling with the question of “What’s next?” as the possibility of experiencing arts and culture as we have known it for thousands of years seems to drift further and further into the future. Despite staggering obstacles, their nimbleness in adapting to our current reality continues to be inspirational.

And yet.

Because of their determination to still be there for us, we as a community are now more than ever keenly feeling our inability to physically be there for them.

As big-box stores churn on to fill our material needs in this coronavirus stupor, we’re beginning to realize that what we really want, yet cannot have, is the ability to gather and experience a communal artistic and cultural event, whether it be courtesy of our local artists or arts and cultural treasures or one of the multitude of opportunities offered at Indiana University in the Before Times. Somehow scoring a multipack of toilet paper at Target doesn’t fill the hole in our collective souls. We crave the electricity of a shared, in-person arts experience.

So how can we support ongoing artistic expression in the face of tragedy and the resumption of in-person communal arts and cultural experiences when it’s feasible?

We can start by voting our quality of life.

Look to those candidates who are acknowledging and speaking to this moment in its fullness. Not just to the disruptions to school, work, local business activity, and worship routines that capture the majority of media attention, but to the grievings, the gatherings, the coming-togethers, and the quieter moments in which artists, arts organizations, and our shared humanity are front and center. Those candidates will be the ones that recognize the critical need to support not only artistic expression but also the recovery efforts for our arts and cultural organizations and experiences and be willing to invest accordingly.

Grab that absentee ballot, that early voting opportunity, or that Election Day moment and vote for those candidates who have expressed an awareness, appreciation, and commitment to the full spectrum of the artists, arts organizations, and arts experiences that make Bloomington Bloomington.

Miah Michaelsen is the deputy director of the Indiana Arts Commission. Previously, she served as the assistant economic development director for the arts for the City of Bloomington, directing all aspects of programs and services offered by the state-designated Bloomington Entertainment and Arts District (BEAD) and leading the City’s efforts regarding arts-related economic development and public art.