Two unrelated side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have long-term impact on our society.
The first is a major financial impact for artists and performers. Their lack of permanent employment has made most artists ineligible for JobKeeper.
The second is the growing evidence of hesitancy by many people to make physical visits to General Practitioners. People who may be in the early stages of cancer, but are reluctant to go out for risk of catching the Coronavirus, are risking the huge benefits of early detection caught through initial visits to their GP.
Sonja Millis, owner of ArtHead on Argyle Street in Moss Vale is helping to bridge those gaps, with the announcement of the third annual 'ArtHeartHQ Blue Square Art Competition.'
ArtHeart is a community wellbeing initiative, launched as a result of her own personal experience of loss.
"All Artists, including photographers, have had a very tough time of things this year with COVID, " Sonja said.
"It has affected us too, of course, so we want to redouble our efforts to encourage artists to produce work for this competition. It's also a fundraiser for the local branch of CanAssist, the NSW organisation that helps support cancer sufferers during their period of treatment.
"I lost my husband Bob to cancer three years ago. In donating $10 of the $30 entry fee for the Blue Square competition to CanAssist (The Cancer Assistance Network), I hope we can raise a valuable contribution to a cause that has supported many Highlands cancer sufferers over the years and now, more than ever, needs the support of the community to keep on supporting those in special need.
"The competition is open for entries from anyone - this event is all about inclusivity! You may be a beginner or experienced in artmaking - all are welcome."
This competition includes painting, photography, digital prints, multimedia, drawings.
Entries must be an original work and have been created within the last 12 months. There is a $2000 prize for the winner.
Judging will be by local artist and Southern Highlands CanAssist fundraising coordinator, Desmond Freeman.
Entries for the Blue Square Art Competition close at 5pm on July 31, just three weeks away.
The work is currently planned to be exhibited at the new ArtHead Exhibition space during August and September, subject to COVID restrictions applicable at that time.
Full entry details can be found on the ArtHead website (arthead.com.au), their Facebook site or at the store at 278 Argyle Street, Moss Vale.
Returning to the theme of improved general health, an important medical message comes from the spokesperson for the Southern Highlands Division of General Practice, Dr. Vince Roche.
"As the weeks of COVID-19 social distancing and home-in-place restrictions have gone on, in which many people have stayed totally isolated at home for weeks on end, except for brief food shopping excursions, we have seen a dramatic reduction in face-to-face visits to local GP rooms," Dr. Roche said.
"As a result, there is a real danger that symptoms experienced that might well be early stage cancers or other serious illness, have been left unseen and therefore untreated. As well, there is ongoing management of chronic medical problems, such as depression, high blood pressure or diabetes"
Dr Roche urges anyone who has missed a regular check-up because they fear catching COVID at their medical practice or thinks they have some health condition that might have changed, whether its bowel movement, a slight lump in breast tissue or a mole that has changed shape or colour, to call their GP, make an appointment and have a review in the doctor's rooms. All medical practices observe an abundance of precautionary measures to protect patients and medical staff alike."
"Tele-medicine can only do so much. If it turns out to be nothing serious, all well and good. The good news is that illnesses such as cancers, caught early, have increasingly good prognoses, so don't put off that doctor's visit any longer. Doctors' surgeries are set up for social distancing, hand sanitisation and other safe COVID practices."
Disclosure: The writer of this article was the winner of the 2019 contest, with a photographic portrait of two Bowral sisters.