Vermont Arts Council

Art in the Time of Covid: Phoebe Lo

In the months-long lockdown that followed the first wave of COVID-19, people across the globe began searching for new ways to spend their time alone. Some of us took up musical instruments, others learned new languages, while most of us simply watched TV and waited for it to be over. But for Burlington artist Phoebe Lo, the lockdown was a time of personal growth that allowed her to nourish her creative side. Working as a muralist, illustrator, and painter, Phoebe is a multi-talented artist whose colorful designs have brought warmth and vibrancy to our slowly recovering world. Phoebe is a recipient of an Artist Development Grant from the Arts Council.

Phoebe Lo’s mural for a nursery in a local Vermont home.

Phoebe graduated from the University of Vermont in 2013 with a degree in art, but she was initially reluctant to pursue a career in the same field. Art occupied a more secondary part of her life — that is, until the pandemic forced Phoebe to spend more time doing solitary hobbies, and her passion for visual art flourished rapidly. Now, she has established a large portfolio of work, including both residential and commercial projects. She has collaborated with successful brands, beautified public spaces, and participated in gallery exhibits throughout Vermont. With each new project, Phoebe hones her distinct aesthetic, which is filled with vivid hues, soft and simple shapes, and an irresistibly joyous energy.

Phoebe shared her thoughts on art in the time of COVID.

How has the pandemic challenged your creative practice and/or business?

Phoebe Lo’s merchandise collaboration with Vermont company Cabot.

My pandemic experience was actually what ignited my career in art. While working for a local non-profit for four years, I had been slowly creating art on the side both as a hobby and through freelance graphic design work. During the beginning of the pandemic especially, time slowed down and grief ensued. Like many others, I had the chance to reflect not only on the state of the world, but on my own state within it. I got very in touch with the temporary nature of existence during this time, which motivated me to commit to a practice that brings me joy and eradicate some of the limiting beliefs I had held about pursuing art as a career. As I began to shift my mindset, new projects began to find me. Over the course of two years, I’ve expanded my practice to include muraling, painting commissions, gallery shows, and art markets.

How have you found strength or support since the pandemic began?

I have found support in many ways. Without a connection to my local community in Burlington, I think the pandemic would have been completely different for me. We befriended our neighbors; we lifted spirits when needed; we got creative with the ways we connect. Unrelated to the pandemic, the tapestry of the Vermont community is woven with collaborative spirit. For a time, my business was entirely based on word-of-mouth, and there have been some amazing collaborations I have been lucky to be a part of. 

Phoebe Lo’s mural for One Percent for the Planet in Burlington.

“Attention is the beginning of devotion,” writes poet Mary Oliver, who artfully uses her gaze of the world around her as a spiritual act. I honor my experience in this world by paying close attention, taking in all of its many sounds, colors, textures, joys, and pains. This practice is something that gives me strength, makes my days more poignant, and connects me to the world around me. 

During the pandemic, some financial support came in the way of grants. I received an Artist Development Grant from the Vermont Arts Council in January 2022 that supported the creation of a mural with the Burlington High School student community. I also received an Embrace Grant from the Micro Business Development Program that supported studio rent and the purchase of new supplies.

What are your plans or hopes for the future?

I feel an incredible lifelong connection to Vermont and hope that creative projects and collaborations continue to allow me to grow in this community. I balance that with a deep love of travel. I hope that the next few years hold some new adventures, large and small, far and near.

Phoebe Lo’s mural for Poppy Café and Café Mamajuana in Burlington.

One of my next projects includes doing an art installation for Otis Mountain Get Down, a music festival in New York right across the lake. This will involve cutting out shapes in plywood and painting them, offering up something that feels like a 2D sculpture. This is a new medium for me that I am excited to explore beyond this project. In addition, I have some collaborations on deck that involve soft goods (rugs, clothes, etc.) that I am eager to explore.

What are some ways people can support your work right now?

Is there anything else you would like to share?

One book that has helped me to regain my inspiration countless times is The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Give it a read if you’re feeling stuck!

Check out Phoebe’s portfolio online.