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  • Writer's pictureCARAVAN Arts

Helen Zughaib: Creativity in a Time of Crisis

Updated: Apr 17, 2020

©Helen Zughaib, Creativity in a time of Corona, 2020 @Basil Kiwan

How has this pandemic affected you and your creative output? How are you adapting to the new realities?

I think that these circumstances force me into further introspection, even more than usual. I am actually less inclined to contact people or participate in any number of requests for social media connections, or to send out inspirational missives. I understand they are a source of comfort to many, but I am content to dig deep into my own thoughts and feelings and try to handle this new reality in the only way I know how, to keep painting and processing.

Please share any insights you have learned from this “lockdown/self-isolation”? Also, is there a special role you feel artists can play in response to the pandemic?

I think that artists creating work during this worldwide lockdown, will continue to express their feelings and emotions, not to mention their fears, in the most sensitive and truthful ways. Artists carry the responsibility to “document” this time not only to bear witness now, but also for future generations. At some point in time, at a safe distance (no pun intended), people will study the paintings, music, poetry and dance, that were “inspired” by this pandemic. Perhaps we can/will learn something to create a better world.

How do you think this will affect artists, the art world and how people interact with art? How do you feel this crisis might reshape our societies in general?

I think that crises create opportunities. Opportunities to learn, to become better members of the societies we live in, to care more about other people and their sufferings. I think in this global crisis, it forces people to look outside of themselves and their immediate needs and to think about people who are in greater need or in desperate and dire circumstances. I think also these crises are opportunities to cultivate empathy, thus possibly changing societies and people for the better and perhaps forcing a reevaluation of what society deems important.

© Helen Zughaib, Syrian Migration Series #36, 2020, Gouache on board

This painting is from my latest "Syrian Migration Series." It depicts the crisis in Idlib, forcing the refugees to sleep and shelter in olive groves.


Helen Zughaib was born in Beirut, Lebanon, living in the Middle East and Europe before moving to the USA America to study art at Syracuse University. Currently living in Washington, DC, she paints primarily using gouache on board and canvas, and creates mixed media installations. Her work has been exhibited in galleries and museums in America, Europe and throughout the Middle East. Her paintings are included in many collections, such as The White House, World Bank, Library of Congress, US Embassies around the world, Arab American National Museum in Detroit, etc. She is frequently invited by the US State Department to be a cultural envoy to the Middle East and Europe. Her paintings have been gifted to heads of state by President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.


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