About a month ago, local artist Yvonne Cavanagh foraged a bouquet of pink and yellow roses, Bird of Paradise blooms, lavender stems and clipped succulents, gathered them in a blue striped ceramic vase that she made and delivered the cheerful arrangement to a friend for her birthday.

Art can bring us together; it inspires and soothes. “Culture makes us resilient, it gives us hope and reminds us that we are not alone,” explains Audrey Azoulay, director-general of UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

I’ve always thought that art has a unique power to unite and connect us, especially during times of crisis. Throughout self-isolation, it seems that art has been flourishing. Perhaps this is because it is so needed. But even so, there has been a lot less support financially for the arts community. The state of the creative industry is in flux. Artists and artistic institutions are suffering the full force of the effects of a global health, economic and social crisis.

Local nonprofit The Hub of Bakersfield set out to provide grants to individual artists and artistic groups to show its support and rally around creatives during a time when many are struggling. The program is called “Cash for the Arts” and puts money in the hands of local creators while providing an arts experience for residents coping with social distancing and stay-at-home orders.

We need art and culture to sustain us. My social media feed is ripe with evidence, full of art both local and abroad that is intended to lift others up. There are videos of neighbors in Italy, France and Spain swaying while singing songs shared across balconies, street-facing windows beaming with children’s rainbows (search #rainbowhunt on Instagram), moving poetry like that from @rupikaur, a pandemic photo series by @allyswenphotography of residents peering out from inside their homes and clever collages that seem stitched together with honest emotion (you won’t regret a follow for @scissorsandstories).

Many are paying tribute to the solidarity shown by artists and institutions at a time when art is feeling the effects of the pandemic. UNESCO’s Azoulay noted that this time of confinement can also be “a period of openness to others and to culture, to strengthen the links between artistic creation and society.” As a recent message from UNESCO notes: Covid-19 has closed museums and canceled concerts, plunging many cultural institutions into uncertainty and immediate financial loss while also threatening a long-term effect on the arts. As the world waits for the current measures to be lifted, local artists are finding unique ways to continue engaging others with their art.

Keeping art alive requires that we support cultural professionals and artists and promote access to art for all. This is exactly what The Hub set out to do with Cash for the Arts.

Cavanagh’s experience of gathering foraged plants for her friend weeks ago inspired a larger project and encouraged her to apply for the program through The Hub. Cavanagh was awarded a grant as one of 13 recipients. She created an online video tutorial on her method of floral arranging.

“I want to bring beauty into others’ daily lives,” she explains. Cavanagh is a professional artist, full time high school ceramics teacher, adjunct professor at Bakersfield College and Airbnb Host. She describes her ceramic work and drawings as colorful, abstract shapes that play off of one another.

“Art is a refuge for many, and there are ways to support artists in unique ways,” she says. One of Cavanagh’s favorite things to do is trade her art with other creatives. She recently traded succulents she had planted in her own pottery with bath bombs and lotions from a friend’s local business. Cavanagh swung by and exchanged her succulents with a bag of bath products on her friend’s porch.

It was a buoying exchange.

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You can find Cavanagh’s floral arranging tutorial, which was made possible through a grant from The Hub, on her website: yvonnecavanagh.com.

Cavanagh encourages others inspired to arrange foraged blooms to post photos and use the hashtag #flowersharekern.

Anna Smith writes a weekly column about Bakersfield. She can be reached at anna@sagebakersfield.com. The views expressed here are her own.

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