In times of disruption, isolation and anxiety, the arts comfort us, connect us and keep us well.

It would be fair to say that COVID-19 has brought disruption to daily life – to all of us, everywhere. It has already taken a toll in the arts world: museums and galleries have closed; concerts, festivals, exhibitions, and events have been cancelled; freelance artists have been left without work and without pay.

The toll that coronavirus will take on our health and social care services and their devoted staff is yet to be seen. The best thing we can do to help right now is probably follow their advice.

While the public’s physical health, particularly that of the most vulnerable among us, must come first, now would be a terrible time to forget about the arts and the support they offer us in hard times.

If you have been self-isolating recently, you have probably already turned to the arts for support. You may not have even thought about it. How many Netflix series have you watched? How many books have you read? How many video games have you played? How much music have you listened to?

At a time when we are deliberately distancing ourselves from other people, we turn to the arts to entertain us, distract us and comfort us. But they do more than that. The arts connect us.

Count the hours of conversation with friends about shared favourite bands, movies, artists and authors; about the latest must-see TV show, meticulously avoiding spoilers for those who haven’t caught up yet…

‘Do remember they can’t cancel the spring’. A message of hope shared by David Hockney this week, who is currently in self-isolation.

‘Do remember they can’t cancel the spring’. A message of hope shared by David Hockney this week, who is currently in self-isolation.

We have already seen people’s creativity and love of the arts bursting out – bringing us together. You’ve probably seen videos of the people in Italy singing in unison from their balconies. Let’s be honest, it is heart-warming but we’re probably not likely to see the same scenes in the UK. However, there is certainly no shortage of creative outlets on offer for arts lovers - and everyone else.

Have you thought about joining a virtual book club? Or taking part in one of the many free drawing, dancing or writing classes being offered by creatives online? Perhaps a virtual tour of one of hundreds of museums and galleries around the world? What about a live-streamed gig on social media? 64 Million Artists are trialling two weeks of fun, free and accessible creative challenges to do at home, starting today (23rd March).

What we’re really talking about here is how art supports our wellbeing - and how we can look out for the wellbeing of other people in isolation.

While doctors, nurses and other essential workers are out there doing their very best to help people, what we can do is slow down and try to stay healthy. Chatting with others on the phone and online is great. Doing some aerobics in the living room, even better. But, most beneficial perhaps, is making some art.

It doesn’t matter what. Dance, sing, write, play, paint – create a new medium! Make something, share it…while appreciating what others have made for you.

Emma Santachiara, 73, one of those balcony singers from the videos, recently told the New York Times:

It’s not like we’re maestros…but it’s a moment of joy in this moment of anxiety.

At Paintings in Hospitals we are hard at work, finding new ways to bring creativity into health and social care sites, including new digital delivery of our arts activities for isolated patients and carers...because what we all need right now are moments of joy.

We need your support. Can you help us bring the arts to patients and carers in this crisis? Please consider becoming a Friend of Paintings in Hospitals…

Artists and cultural organisations need your support. If you are in the lucky position of being able to afford to buy art, consider buying some from an artist. If you have tickets for a cancelled exhibition, concert or event, consider donating your refund back to the artists or venue.

If you are an artist or creative practitioner, our friends and colleagues at the Culture Health & Wellbeing Alliance have collated lots of coronavirus resources, including guidance, advice, and sources of support for freelancers.