The Most Important People Social Distance In The Penalty Box

I mentioned last week that I was in the middle of virtually attending the combined Arts Midwest-Western Arts Alliance Conference. I will probably have a couple entries of observations on particular sessions. However, I wanted to throw out two smaller bits of information I came across that I didn’t think could fill an entire entry.

First, as much as everyone is talking about streaming being the wave of the future and the only way arts organizations can survive, an attendee from Mississippi noted that a significant portion of the community she served did not have reliable high speed internet.

There was a fair bit of talk at the conference about the Covid environment providing the opportunity/forcing organizations to provide experiences that connected with a greater range of their local community.  For some communities, this means that the live experience may be the only viable experience.

Likewise, it is important to remember that even though contactless payment like tapping and swiping might be the safest, there are a lot of people in our communities who are unbanked or underbanked for whom cash is the only possible medium of exchange. Be sure to consider these challenges when pledging people will find you welcoming and more accessible in the future.

Further up the Mississippi River, in Grand Rapids. MN was my favorite story about leveraging local features and assets to meet the challenges of live performance during Covid-times. Shantel Dow, Executive Director of the Reif Center said they were holding “boat-in” concerts on lake shores where the audience arrived on pontoon boats to watch the land based performance.

She also mentioned they were holding events at an outdoor hockey rink. It is roofed against rain, but open air on the sides to allow for important ventilation and air exchange.  What I really loved was that they were selling the penalty boxes as VIP seating. From the pictures I saw, it looked like most people bring their own chairs and arrange themselves at a safe distance from others around the rink.

I don’t remember the exact number of events she said they had done since Covid restrictions began, but it seemed impossibly high. However, looking at their Facebook page, between the boat-in concerts, the ice hockey arena events and the movies they are projecting on the side of their building, a high number of events seemed within the realm of possibility. I am happy they were able to make so much work for them.


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. (

I am currently the 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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