Opinion: Social distancing, community, and the arts during coronavirus

Posted on: March 17, 2020

In photo: Times Square in New York City is normally packed at all times. The scene on Monday, March 16. Photo: AP/Seth Wenig

“The coronavirus undermines our most basic ideas about community,” writes Michael Kimmelman in Tuesday’s (3/17) New York Times. “Ezra Klein in Vox raised the prospect of social distancing causing a ‘social recession,’ a kind of ‘collapse in social contact that is particularly hard,’ he wrote, ‘on the populations most vulnerable to isolation and loneliness—older adults and people with disabilities or pre-existing health conditions.’ … After 9/11 … at the Metropolitan Museum … crowds had gathered … to remind themselves of life and beauty and tolerance, and to seek strength in one another. During the blitz of London, in World War II, the British Home Office ordered all theaters, concerts halls, movie houses and other public gathering spots shut…. The exception was London’s National Gallery [which] also organized a series of lunchtime classical music concerts. Going out meant risking life and limb. But Londoners waited in lines that stretched out the front door of the gallery and across Trafalgar Square…. Modest though they were, the concerts gave Londoners hope, reminding them why they lived there and together. Today’s threat … can’t be mitigated by going to concerts or museums. It requires isolation. We will need to figure out a different approach, together.”