New York, Aug 11 (IPS) – Screens, devices, and smartphones replaced the human touch and day-to-day interactions as COVID-19 protocols forced millions of people into harsh lockdowns and prolonged isolation.
Screens, devices, and smartphones replaced the human touch and day-to-day interactions as COVID-19 protocols forced millions of people into harsh lockdowns and prolonged isolation.
According to a report published by UNICEF, even with more than 90 percent of the countries adopting digital and broadcast remote learning policies, more than 1 billion children were at risk of falling behind due to school closures.
With school closures, remote learning and work from home, the world also faced issues with mental health, depression, coping with the loss of loved ones and heightened stress.
Irene Zaman, who has been working with teens and adolescents in New York schools for more than 15 years, told IPS in an interview that the mental health of children, teen and their parents was a significant issue.
“We have got many requests from parents to offer mechanisms to assist the mental and emotional well-being of the children. This was something we never experienced, and the adaptation had to be quick,” Zaman said.
“Children, teens and even parents were facing challenges, severe or prolonged feelings of depression or sadness. As a new routine, the schools started to call homes, offering therapy and support. Among these, of the most engaging of them was art therapy for dealing with stress.”
A pilot study published in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health and completed during the pandemic showed that “emotion-based directed drawing intervention and a mandala drawing intervention may be beneficial to improve mental health in elementary school children.” These interventions could take place both online and via video conferencing.
Artist and entrepreneur Muthulakshmi Anu Narasimhan agrees with the findings. “One thing that is vital about art, especially during COVID, has been how therapeutic it is. Throughout my life, I have leaned on art to get me through difficult times. It helps me stop thinking about everything else and focus on creating something from nothing,” she said in an exclusive interview with IPS.
“When I bring to the world a physical representation of an idea I had, it gives me not just joy but a sense of triumph and accomplishment. Going through a lockdown and caring for two children as a single mom was difficult, but my art helped me rebalance and give a creative outlet to my fears and exhaustion. This not only resulted in a wider clientele and happier mental state but also better art! My art grew leaps and bounds because of how much I relied on it.”
Ironically while artists, performing artists, and musicians suffered financially during the pandemic, it was these things that kept people engaged. The World Economic Forum estimated that a six-month shutdown cost the music industry alone more than $10bn in sponsorships. It noted that innovative platforms were beginning to change this downward trajectory.
Riya Sinha, a co-founder of online platform Fuzia, told IPS that her platform had quickly adapted and had increased its focus on arts and learning.
“Earlier this year, with a focus on skill development and microlearning, we launched a series of webinars, quizzes, e-books and courses. We also provided a free platform and international audience base for upcoming artists to share their work,” Sinha said. “Word of mouth and international engagement has been unprecedented in helping create what we are today.”
Fuzia is an online hub that aims to drive women empowerment and gender equality by providing inspiration, empathy, and creativity, Sinha says. Any user with internet access can share this safe space and express themselves to an audience of about five million users.
Fuzia’s co-founder, Shraddha Varma, agrees: “Freedom of expressing creative personas and learning are the steps towards self-discovery and empowerment. Through us, learning and engagement opportunities are accessible and affordable to every individual worldwide with internet access”.
Fuzia harnessed the need to be creative and to share experiences. It created a safe place where women and others, could meet, and share their art – and at times also build a career.
Humaira Ferdous Shifa, who is currently a full-time student and working as an illustrator at Fuzia, says she started her journey as a user and ended up with a position as a graphic artist.
“I was interested in making friends and having an audience to share my work, and this was the best medium to explore. I found incredible growth in my professional and personal life.”
The platform celebrates its 9th anniversary in August with a Fuzia Creative Summit. The summit will offer a three-day virtual gathering bringing together experts, artists, and industry leaders, all under one remote roof. Here upcoming artists will have an opportunity to showcase their talents and immerse themselves in creative expression.
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