COVID-19: Getting inventive with creativity

Woman in study with bright coloured painting on wall
Melissa Harvey

Melissa Harvey is a full-time Technical Assistant to the Conservation Department at the Art Gallery of NSW and a practicing contemporary artist. 

COVID-19 has impacted both these careers.

The Art Gallery of NSW has been closed since March 20 and all except essential staff are working from home.

“My studio has now turned into my working from home office, making it harder to separate the two careers and maintain energy for my creativity,” said Ms Harvey.

The gallery world has also become virtual and although the transition was stressful, Ms Harvey says it was also smooth under the direction of Dr. Michael Brand.

“Each of our roles have diversified and generated great initiatives like the online resource Together in Art,” she said.

The Together in Art webpage presents commissions, pocket exhibitions, behind-the-scenes tours, performances, and art classes with some of Australia’s great artists.

Look for the possibilities

Ms Harvey was in the middle of an exhibition called Possibilities when lockdown hit.

 “It was on display at Our Neon Foe, a not-for-profit collective and artist run initiative. Possibilities was in its third week of a four-week display period, with weekly changeovers. The third changeover unpredictably became the last for the exhibition with the closure of the gallery,” she said.

New gallery lights were installed to illuminate the space after hours and Our Neon Foe launched a social media feed promoting it as something inspiring and safe to see on a COVID-19 night isolation walk.

What’s next?

In August this year, Ms Harvey is scheduled to have a solo show at Lismore Regional Gallery. The gallery plans to reopen with her exhibition.

“Current uncertainties around the duration of the pandemic coupled with my recent experience of Possibilities foreshortening, I’m not sure if it will be going ahead, although I still aim to be prepared for the … possibility,” said Ms Harvey.

“It is hard to be in this place of the unknown/uncertain. I require access to very specific equipment to make my medium and this equipment is housed in a non-essential business that is closed and off-limits to me at present. I have had to rethink my creative process and methodologies. What I had planned for this exhibition will need to alter to what I have available to me.”

She has learnt it’s important to be resilient, adaptive, use one’s initiative and be inventive in this current climate. 

“Most importantly be kind to yourself about things outside of your control.”

“Going for walks with my dog, maintaining social distancing, and continuing to smile at the people walking by has been my latest call to action. We are all in this together as a community and everyone needs a smile right now.”

 Ms Harvey did a Bachelor of Visual Arts at Southern Cross University, which was conferred in 2004.