Pandemic-Proof Art – the Social Distancing Festival’s founder, Nick Green

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Published on

May 18, 2020
Time to read: 4 minutes
Art in the time of Covid - The Social Distance Streaming Festival

I’ve wanted to talk to Nick Green, the Founder of The Social Distancing Festival for a few weeks now.

From his Toronto home, he’s produced a site that aggregates and promotes artistic streams from around the world in an effort to “come together as a community at a time when we need it more than ever”.

Indeed, it’s a particularly dire time for the arts sector: a mid-April survey of UK artists for the a-n (n=4000) indicated that, even in those relatively early days of the pandemic, 96% had already lost income due to Covid-19.

Not only is this site helping support this struggling sector, but it also encompasses a broader shift in how arts brands and content creators are building close relationships with their audiences in the face of prolonged closures and social distance measures – tapping into the impetus behind events like Warner/Songkick’s Playfest or the National Theatre’s streaming of classic performances.

In the below, we chat about Nick’s goals for the site, what community looks like in the Covid-age, and how ‘art’ might evolve in response to this virus…[divider line_type=”No Line”]

Building Pandemic-Proof Audiences – The Social Distancing Festival

[divider line_type=”Small Line” line_thickness=”2″ divider_color=”extra-color-1″]Hook Research: What is The Social Distancing Festival?

Nick Green: The Social Distancing Festival is a site that showcases and celebrates artists and artistic work that was impacted by the need for social distancing. Artists in multiple disciplines can submit their work, which is then posted on the site under the categories Art, Music, Theatre/Opera, and Dance. There is also a Featured category, which is a curated section for work that has really jumped out to me.

Through the site, artists are able to have their work offered to a large international audience, which has led to new collaborations, attention being brought to other work, and commissions. Viewers are able to discover new favourite artists, explore new genres and disciplines, and share exciting work within their networks. [divider line_type=”No Line”]HR: I know building ‘Community’ is one of your key goals for the site – in your opinion, what does ‘Community’ look like in the age of COVID?

NG: One of the motives behind building the site was a desire to stay connected to other artists while isolating. What’s ironic is that I have felt more connected to the arts community during this time than I have in several years.
To me, this community looks like artists interacting with each other’s work, helping to get their work shown to a wider audience, and offering support to one another. 

HR: What has the response been like from artists and viewers?

NG: The response has been pretty incredible right from the start.
What started as a status update with an idea was shared almost 2000 times within twelve hours. The site had about a quarter of a million visitors within the first week, and still averages around 5000 visitors a day. We have received hundreds of submissions from around the world, and we continue to get new submissions each day. 

HR: From your perspective, are there any positive takeaways from this difficult period? Any long-term learnings?

NG: I’m really excited to see what post-COVID period art is going to look like. I’m imagining that artists are going to be inspired to explore themes of family, friendship, and personal relationships, nature, and the global community, as this time has pulled those themes into focus. “What’s ironic is that I have felt more connected to the arts community during this time than I have in several years”
I also think that we’re learning a lot about the role technology plays in our lives, and how it can serve to pull us all closer together rather than being something that only causes distance and detachment. 

HR: Which streams, in particular, should we be watching on the site? Why do they stand out?

NG: We have many different streams to choose from every day, many of which are new and exciting events, so there’s often an element of taking a chance when you tune in – but that’s part of the fun! You can check out an album release party in Seattle without having to leave your home!

I’d also suggest that if you want to just get a taste of the site without doing a deep-dive, head to the Featured section to see stand-out work in all disciplines from places around the world that include Canada, the US, France, Estonia, Tanzania, Armenia, Mexico, Australia, China, Italy, The Netherlands, and more. 

HR: I see you’ve also set up the ‘Long Distance Art’ programme – can you tell us a bit more about this? As the ‘matchmaker’ in this project, what qualities are you looking for in compatible artists?

NG: Long Distance Art is a new project in which I’ve paired up artists in different disciplines from cities around the world. We are continuing with the project, and are open to artists submitting themselves.”We’re learning a lot about the role technology plays in our lives, and how it can serve to pull us all closer together rather than being something that only causes distance and detachment”We are really interested in artists who are excited by the idea of working in an interdisciplinary manner, and using digital tools to create new work that will be exhibited primarily online. Interested artists can head to the Long Distance Art page on the site to learn more. 

HR: What’s next for you and the Social Distancing Festival?

NG: I really have no idea what’s ahead for the site! There’s so much uncertainty in every aspect of life these days, so I am sort of going day by day with this project. One of my biggest hopes it to partner with an organization or individual who is able to help me further support artists on new levels. 

[divider line_type=”Small Line” line_thickness=”2″ divider_color=”extra-color-1″]Thanks to Nick for taking the time to share his thoughts with us!

If you enjoyed this interview, please take a moment to check out the other interviews in our Creator Conversation series. We regularly add new content, so if you don’t want to miss out you may want to sign up for our free monthly newsletter – a collection of our research-led insights and commentary on the media landscape.

Picture Credits (left to right): from Family Fictions by Liz Albert; Nick Green, Founder of the Social Distancing Festival; Dancer Tadhi Alawi


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