Artists Around the World Respond to the Global Crisis

Resilience of Artists and Musicians During COVID-19 Crisis Offers Hope

Against the crippling backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, World Citizen Artists, the global arts movement, headquartered in the UK, has announced the Award recipients of its latest ‘Solidarity for All’ Award.

The devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have been felt worldwide, causing the loss of loved ones and severe economic hardship. Within The Arts sector specifically, uncertainty has placed a strain on work, with funding cuts, exhibition cancelations and gallery closures. “The sudden disappearance of live gigs and the interaction and energy that goes with them has been a huge change to musicians and performers everywhere,” said Valerie Won Lee, founder of World Citizen Artists.

Yet, the applicants for the 2020 ‘Solidarity for All’ Award remained determined to continue despite these exceptional circumstances, thus demonstrating the ever-growing resilience and importance of The Arts. Still, competing in a contest that opened on May 1st – during the height of COVID – came with its own set of challenges.

Award winners artist Edina Seleskovic from Bosnia and Herzegovina and US musician Russ Parish overcame considerable odds to scoop the top prizes. Runners up Sema Çulam, a visual artist from Turkey, and Rebel Layonn, a musician from Haiti, also said how the lack of a live audience, access to studios or face to face interactions with others had added difficulties to the creative process.

For visual arts, music and performing arts, live performances or audience reactions are the end goal for many. Russ Parrish, who was awarded first place for his song “Together”, is usually incentivised by seeing other people and a drive to perform to live audiences. With this being impossible due to COVID restrictions, he had to turn to other sources of inspiration, and instead found himself striving to motivate everyone to work together, like “one crew on a ship in a sea, sailing together”, as the lyrics of his song state.

Another impact of the COVID pandemic on the creative community was the limited opportunity for collaboration. Even though artists and musicians may work alone at the beginning stages of their creative processes, a lot of their later stages rely on in-person collaboration – from recording the song with other musicians to the final performance in front of an audience. However, the applicants for the contest were working in a world where this was unimaginable in our pre-covid existences.

“Artists like music runner-up Rebel Layonn have only ever produced music in a studio, to shift that process to a lockdown scenario in his own home, with no access to technicians and equipment, was a considerable challenge,” added Won Lee. “But with help from friends around the world, he was able to record and mix his final song with their virtual support instead. To me, that cooperation is the epitome of the solidarity and incredible resilience of artists during this dark period.”

The inspiration to help one another seems to have driven all of our applicants towards their final submission. Despite challenges throughout their creative processes, artists wanted to share their messages of solidarity – overarchingly, that everyone is not alone in their struggles. This is especially apparent in Edina Seleskovic’s final piece. The winning piece, “Beating Heart”, is symbolically titled to indicate how we all share one collective heart – a reference to how we are united in fighting the COVID pandemic. These messages of solidarity, both present throughout the process of creation and final product, were vital for the artists and musicians to express. Therefore, despite the struggles that artists faced, their resilience to create regardless of external factors comes as an inspiration to all of us to stand together in solidarity.

The Solidarity for All Awards 2020 launched in May,  in partnership with Belgravia Gallery, the Gandhi Foundation, PeaceDay365, Bristol Students Union, Emmanuel Jal, Marta Gomez and the mental health charity This is My Brave – in order to encourage artists and the public living in isolation to stay positive, constructive and creative and inspire solidarity.

About World Citizen Artists:

World Citizen Artists is a worldwide movement and emerging community of artists, creatives, and thinkers whose aim is to create effective and evolutionary change in the world through events, exchanges, and other opportunities involving the use of art and music to raise global awareness. Learn more at

Russ Parrish:

Rebel Layonn:

Edina Seleskovic:

Sema Çulam: