The past year and a half has been extremely hard on everyone, but it has been especially hard on small business owners. And according to Americans for the Arts, the arts were tremendously impacted by the pandemic, with an overall expected financial loss of $15.5 billion. In California, 70 percent of artists have said that Covid-19 has negatively impacted their income, and more than 10 percent of California artists are unsure their businesses will survive.
I’ve experienced this economic loss first-hand. Without the in-person gallery visits or painting events my business would usually host, we’ve had to think differently and focus on our social media presence to keep my career as an artist alive, and my gallery and studio, out of the red.
During Hispanic Heritage Month, I usually take the opportunity to share the art of my Latin culture with others. While the pandemic kept last year’s celebrations to a minimum, through the power of social media, I have been able to celebrate my Mexican heritage and Latino-inspired artwork with my 20,000 social media followers located around the world this year, and teach live virtual classes, showing people how to make art that celebrates my Mexican heritage.
Like most artists, one of the things I never even thought to consider and make a plan for was a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. To ensure I could continue not only paying my bills, but also keeping my passion for teaching art alive when people could no longer be together in person, I needed to adapt. So, I turned to social media, which quickly became a lifeline for my business.
With Covid restrictions limiting in-person gatherings, I decided to transition my art classes online, holding them virtually through Facebook Live. Going digital has opened up a whole new customer base for my business. People from all over the country have signed up to take my virtual painting technique classes, and they’re able to do this from the comfort and safety of their own homes. I’ve even had a few people from other countries sign up, which is something I never could have imagined happening two years ago.
Now that California has begun to open back up, I have started holding in-person classes again, but my virtual classes are not going anywhere. At a time when so many other artists and small businesses struggled, I was able to develop a foundation that not only supports my craft, but also helps to grow my career and my reach as an artist. In fact, prior to the pandemic and my pivot focusing on my social media presence, I had about 1,500 people who knew about Moya Art Gallery and Studio—and just a few months short of two years later, more than 20,000 people follow my business on Facebook.
While in-person art classes will always have a place in the industry, the digital space should not be overlooked. Like so many artists wanting to express themselves and their culture through a creative outlet and make a living in the process, the unknowns and hardships have almost thrown me off course. Offering virtual classes through social media has expanded my customer base farther than I ever expected.
Through my creations, I am excited to continue showcasing my Mexican heritage to those in Gilroy and around the world. I hope other artists will join me in embracing social media as a means to connect with like-minded people who both appreciate the arts and support artists. While I can’t safeguard myself from every what-if, I have found that by building a solid digital following, it has helped to cement my career as an artist, and provided a foundation to become far less vulnerable to the unknown.
Nacho Moya is the CEO and founder of Moya Art Gallery and Studio in Gilroy.