The city of New York is a COVID-19 hot spot due to a toxic mix of high density living, a well travelled elite, lack of free government healthcare and high numbers of poor. Indeed as of writing, New York has lost 10,056 people to COVID-19, close to half of America’s total of 23,649 and, astoundingly, almost 10% of the global death tally of 119,686.
Artist Michael Alan has spent his whole life living and creating in New York, and has felt the impact of COVID-19 first hand – he has given up his art studio, his creative and romantic partner Jadda has lost her job and Michael has moved in with his elderly mother to provide her with around the clock care.
Events that turned Michael’s world upside down and forced him to refocus, re-energise and concentrate on the things most dear to him – family, community and art.
We spoke with Michael to get an understanding of how COVID is impacting New York, his family, his creative partner Jadda, his art and to also unpack his thoughts on what it could all lead to.
Read the interview and see some of Michael’s latest art below…
First off man – how are you and your loved ones, such as your mom and your partner Jadda coping with everything?
Thanks for asking, I think we gotta collectively ask everyone as everyone is affected at this difficult stage. We all collectively are struggling it’s what can we do to uplift.
We are losing a ton of people, families are being destroyed, and ways of life wrecked.
It’s not a simple just stay home, for many they must fight the front lines, continue on with their jobs so the rest of us can continue getting food, medicine, many of us have to take or our elders.
We are all fighting a virus that our bodies have never met.
We know few true facts and that makes it harder for the whole.
The News doesn’t help.
My losses are not important compared to the overall loss we all are facing globally. We personally choose to shut down, Jadda lost her job, I made my choice so I can take care of my mom and lady. My mom is NY TOUGH. She is loving and wise. It’s like temporarily living with Gandhi.
On the other hand she is frail, 86, vulnerable, and I have to watch her. I’m putting focus on helping my mom, Jadda and helping others.
If someone wants a voice I’m here.
I rep NYC to the fullest.
I rep action.
Covid is impacting us all, bringing with it fear, sickness, financial stress and showing both the best and worst aspects of humanity…
Please share how Covid is affecting the various aspects of your life:
– Your art practice?
Seeing COVID affect all of us… there are just no words.
It’s pushed me to think more about the world and try to be more selfless.
I refocused my creative art concentration on creating uplifting images. I’ve been using iconic New York imagery to give my people and city some positivity and inspire awareness, also focusing globally.
Now especially is a time to give hope to people and to me that is a true definition of art. In my belief all art should be made to uplift, compel emotion, and raise awareness.
I launched a small Big Cartel where I put up some discounted prints to raise money for NYC’s COVID fund and to help my mom through this time. I hope it inspires others to make actions, whether big or small, to help.
I’m also making images for people to just share around and enjoy. They offer hope and relief, that don’t even involve sale, they just involve hope. They’ve been getting a great response!
I’m dropping a print with my friend Norman Reedus. He is a good EGG! All profits from his gallery @bigbaldgallery are going to a COVID fund.
I’m donating an edition of prints to the gallery.
He is using his voice to raise awareness which I support. He has donated all his work now to covid.
– Personal relationships?
BC my personal relationships revolved around wherever I went to make art. I worked in my studio, the street, in transit, at doctors, friends places, gatherings, or on location. I would go to see art shows but just the quick in and out to see buds. I’m not into the social gang bang.
I miss seeing my close people.
I miss fresh air.
I miss my place.
I can’t even go outside.
My mom lives in front of the main bus stop where there are tons of people, and garbage builds up on the street. I can’t risk anything. I keep checking in with many people to see if they’re ok.
A lot of people are in their own struggle so its good to reach out and say hello. Part of the art life is to reach out. Many are MIA, sick, or not in New York anymore.
I’m trying to post things, reach out, and do charity work and art activism to keep up the positivity and awareness, versus maintaining my career. I think now more than ever I need to think what is the most important and why I do what I do.
Jadda and I made a movie that people watched live, and is up online now where anyone can donate to watch. It’s made to uplift people during this time. A lot of people who saw it responded well to it. We can all use some cheering up at this time.
– Mental health?
I don’t think anyone’s mental health is doing so good.
The key is to not spread fear and not spread your personal negative situations to others.
It’s a time to try to uplift each other and communicate in a way that makes sense as an advancing forward conversation.
The internet has become an outlet for increasing self indulgence. There are a lot of things that hopefully will be deleted as there is no time for them, things that take up our mental space and don’t add anything to our societal value. Luckily I have my mom and Jadda.
Some days are very difficult, but with “Art” you can take that and try to accept it, then think about the next thing you can do for mankind. It is a fast changing ride.
I have normal reality concerns and have to stay on top of my mind in order to protect my family. If there’s anyone that is going to try to disrupt that, there is no time for them.
At the same time if there is someone in need, I would like to offer my time to try to help. I’ve gone through a lot growing up in NYC so I do offer a voice.
New York, with its high density, lack of universal health care and large numbers of low-income / no-income workers has become a Covid 19 hot spot…
– How has Covid 19 affected New York already?
You nailed it! NYC has its focus usually on the wrong issues. I love NYC no matter what, its my city, but so much of the focus is off.
It’s a complex place, intense, but to see the real NYC you have to look past what is media controlled, or what is favoured.
NYC is the whole. If the whole isn’t addressed then NYC is in tough situation.
The core of NYC is having the most struggle. The poor, the disabled, the blue collar, and so on. People are having problems that our “health care system can’t handle” on top the media is giving conflicting mind spins. Friends of mine have COVID and are being sent home, or dying at home and are not part of statistics.
Many people here are stuck in buildings built like jails with no ways to take care besides the way they know best – community.
NYC has too many problems in general and the focus is usually off. I hope that it can change NOW and stay changing in the direction of the forgotten. The rent is too damn high for New Yorkers, everything becomes too much ME ME ME, it’s hard to really connect, it’s hard to be healthy in a unhealthy system, and then expect everyone is just gonna stay home and be ok…
– And what lasting affects do you think Covid 19 will have on New York in the short, medium and long terms?
Honestly I don’t know.
You can look at the now we have a crazy high death toll, with no real way to take care of everyone, the Federal government isn’t taking it seriously. So much time wasted. The city is set up for money making, not health.
The core middle class, poor, artists, independent workers, mom and pop funk shops, trade workers, people in art, culture, mags, and small businesses, city workers, hospital workers, delivery workers, family run restaurants, book shops record shops, galleries, everyone, are the ones who will pay the extreme toll.
They might be the ones pushed out, left behind when New York bounces back. They will have suffered the worst blow.
What do I know I’m just a dude who has seen everyone pushed out ongoing. If it doesn’t level out soon then we will end up with more harsh realities from the people who work paycheck to paycheck, shops and restaurants that were struggling already, then what?
The prices here are just too damn high. When is there a real break? A real change, the system has to treat these New Yorkers in a way that makes sense.
What will take their place if they are pushed out is the question.
I don’t know. Maybe NYC will go back to an emptier city with less competition that allows more opportunities for small businesses to succeed. Or maybe these empty places will be replaced by corporations, sweeping up the last of the soul and flavor.
Tons of unknowns…
The intense corporate plastic energy makes it horrid. It’s unclear. Are we gonna lose that last last of the funk? The dope spots?
Will it rise back to PUNK AND FUNK? That is also up to us!
The only thing people can do is to really put their best foot forward to help each other.
All the things we admire so much about any city will not be there unless pricing comes down and major moves are made to keep the less fortunate able to go on.
– Can you share with us some of the sights, tales and events you heard and / or witnessed occurring in New York as a result of Covid?
Every few minutes you hear an ambulance. It’s endless. All you can do is think of them. The responders, the people, the families.
Is it your neighbour, is it your friend?
Yes in reality we are all in this. We are all united, the division needs to end. Strength is courage and knowledge.
We need our leaders in film, music, TV, and art to make a stand.
We don’t need a new world of closed doors!
– If you could escape New York and live in any place in the world to escape and ride out Covid with your loved ones, where would that be?
My mom’s unable to travel due to her age and I wouldn’t wanna leave anyway because this is where I was born and raised.
– What has been the most surprising realization you have had about yourself / the world at large whilst living in New York during the pandemic?
It’s just obvious that many people are confused on what uniting is, and until that happens this pandemic will keep going.
The news and political parties are fighting each other, our culture is full of self promotions instead of the rare pure messages.
The message isn’t being delivered about the overall.
Even if a positive message is being delivered it’s often missing the message of unity. People need to let go of the ego.
People who normally wouldn’t communicate need to start communicating, voices of power need to help those who need help.
We all need help.
If you had to pick only one, what has been the hardest thing to cope with during the Covid outbreak?
All the deaths and families that are suffering.
What impact do you think Covid 19 will have on the art world both economically and creatively?
Hard to tell, people like to own work to uplift their worlds. Art will need to step up.
Art is also an investment. Some investments for sure will go to waste. Some artists won’t uphold and some will.
To be honest, I’m in the art mix but I’m not. That’s just who I am.
I’m more interested in the conversation in art changing overall.
Thoughts on the current status of America as it deals with Covid?
We’re in deep trouble. I hope some states will be ok, but if everyone doesn’t take it seriously then it will never end.
The reaction time to the overall situation in America was not appropriate. The things that need and needed to be in place were thrown away.
… And how do you think the globe and humanity is coping with it all?
Hard to tell, you can’t trust the news. Obviously people are all hurting, all kinds of people. Some more than others. Who is to say whose pain is worse. It’s a universal pain.
I hope for a universal connection.
All we can do is hope and act.
To end on a lighter note, what is your lockdown outfit of choice?