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Arts in Boston During The Coronavirus Pandemic

"Open Studio" Host Jared Bowen On The Arts In Boston During The Coronavirus Pandemic

A  well-dressed man sits in an upholstered chair taking notes with a pen and paper while a bright spotlight shines on him.
Open Studio host Jared Bowen at WGBH Studios in Boston.
Meredith Nierman


Jared Bowen, host of WGBH’s Open Studio with Jared Bowen and Executive Arts Editor, takes us every week to sets, studios and stages across the region to showcase the arts. With those cultural institutions now closed due to the pandemic, Bowen reflects on what’s next for the arts scene and for his show.

How did you react when arts institutions began to close down?

Bowen: When I left WGBH on the last day we worked out of our offices — Friday, March 13 — I had no idea what my job was anymore. Having seen the virtual overnight closure of the entire arts community, I found myself in entirely uncharted waters.

How did you regroup?

Bowen: By Monday, I saw that the arts community — institutions and individuals alike — while deeply wounded, was rallying. Ever since, my mission has been to cover the coronavirus impact, to provide artists with a venue and an audience via our broadcast platforms and to deliver art directly into people’s homes.

How have you done that?

Bowen: We’ve been able to offer virtual interviews with singers, musicians, actors and writers who are all wonderfully undaunted in their drive to continue to make art happen. And I’m thrilled that we can be the vessel to help make it happen.

When do you think people will feel comfortable being part of large audiences again?

Bowen: Nobody knows when people are going to feel comfortable again to gather in community spaces, especially concert halls where you are side-by-side or museums where you congregate in exhibitions. Everybody is bracing for the reality that their forums are going to be vastly different.

What might the future look like for the arts?

Bowen: The ramifications of this are going to last for years. When the world gets back to some semblance of normalcy, the arts world can’t just pick up where we left off. It takes so much time to book shows, to have rehearsals, to plan seasons. It’s like an intricate jigsaw puzzle.

Do you think the arts community will work on this together, or will adjustments be made institution by institution?

Bowen: I think the leaders who recognize the value in surviving together will make something happen. If they collaborate, they might recognize that they have like missions. They may have to make uncomfortable but shrewd business decisions to, for example, combine staffs or infrastructure. I’m sure that some of those things are being looked at already.

Will this pandemic change the subject matter or mood of future art?

Bowen: Difficult times always produce terrific art. Tony Kushner created Angels in America out of the AIDS crisis. Arthur Miller created his great pieces in the aftermath of World War II. Maya Lin designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which is one of the most enduring memorials and pieces of art in this country. I have no doubt that truly poignant, affecting and lasting art is going to come out of this time.

How are you personally staying connected to art?

Bowen: I'm looking for things that will take me far away. I just started reading By Women Possessed: A Life of Eugene O’Neill, because I want to live in a different time and be surrounded by artists. I’ve also started a regular post on Instagram called #ArtNourishment. I've been scrolling through the years of pictures I've taken in museums, and I try to post something every day. People write me and say, “Thank you so much for doing this.” But honestly, I'm doing it for me. It's been a great source of solace.