The Visuals Of Open Arts Organizations As A Sign Of Economic Vibrancy

I noticed something very interesting on Friday morning as I was checking out different news sites. It appears that on at least a subconscious level a number of news outlets equate theaters with a return to economic vibrancy.

On the NBC News site, there was a picture of the Plaza Theatre in Atlanta.  Except for a single mention that movie theaters could open starting today, the entire piece was about the concerns hair salons, tattoo and massage parlors had about being permitted to re-open last Friday. Everyone interviewed for the story was associated with one of these businesses, no one from a theater involved in the story.

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Within five minutes, I came across another article on that was about unemployment benefits in Georgia, but used a picture of The Fox Theatre which had no association with the article at all other than being located in Georgia.

I sent an email out to the members of the state presenting consortium pointing out the use of theatre images as a type of shorthand for a return to vibrancy. I suggested we remember this fact when we moved to an operating environment which felt like the next normal. I don’t know if it is the result of good advocacy work by local, regional and national arts entities, but if there are positive associations between the arts organizations re-opening and socioeconomic vibrancy, it is something to leverage in communications with the community, donors, funders, and government.

In response to my group email, a colleague in Marietta, GA sent out a picture of his theater as it appeared on NBC Nightly News the evening before. Again, he said the broadcast didn’t mention the theater directly.

It can definitely worth paying attention to the images being associated with positive narratives to see if arts organizations are included. Perhaps even something to invite if the opportunity presents itself.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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