The COVID-19 pandemic has hit freelance visual artists hard, as mandatory stay-at-home orders make it impossible to exhibit and sell works in galleries and connect in person with the community. “Times like these call into question the very necessity and viability of art itself,” says Jacob Arden McClure, a multimedia artist based in Palm Springs whose latest works address the shut-down economy head on.

“Quarantined and feeling ‘unessential,’ I created a new artworks that feature layered elements of classical art and contemporary pop culture blocked out by black squares or bars,” he says. “This ‘censorship’ to the picture is symbolic of the blackout, or shutdown, of our art communities.”

Two new mixed-media pieces, Black Flag (right) and The Hound (above), pack all the expectations of McClure’s collage style: load with symbolism, iconography, texture, and layering. These works earned the artist a $500 grant from the California Desert Arts Council (CDAC) to Keep Art Alive.

“Questioning how we see and consume art at times when it’s deemed unessential,” McClure says, “these works serve as an expression of exasperation and longing for art that we can no longer experience like we used to.”

CDAC and affiliate La Quinta Arts Foundation established a $50,000 Keep Art Alive fund to award grants to Coachella Valley artists and arts organizations who create thoughtful, inspiring, and relevant works responding to the crisis.

See more work by Jacob Arden McClure at