NEA Re-Opening Guide – You’re Not Alone

The National Endowment for the Arts has released their “Art of Reopening” guide. Looking through it, it doesn’t substantially differ from other re-opening guides about which I have written. In fact, it actually references many of them as additional resources that are available.

However, if you are just now getting to a place where you can start to think about reopening now that vaccine distribution has started, the NEA guide can be a good place to start your plans.

The bulk of the guide is a list of best practices supported by case study interviews conducted with arts organizations of various disciplines around the country. I am not going to quote extensively from the guide because I feel like I have written some of these topics to death by now. I did want to highlight the fact that the first lesson listed is to strengthen ties with your immediate community. While I have written that to death, I don’t feel anything is lost by repeating it until it people can’t remember a time it wasn’t a core tenet of their practice.

Another lesson learned I wanted to emphasize is:

The unexpected will continue to happen. Be transparent when it does. Adapting quickly to new circumstances and information, and communicating those lessons promptly and effectively to artists/staff, board members, donors, and the public will attract greater confidence in your endeavor.

One thing in the NEA guide you won’t find in any other guide is a survey of National Service Organizations (i.e. American Alliance of Museums, Association of Performing Arts Professionals, Association of Writers & Writing Programs, Dance/USA, Film Festival Alliance, League of American Orchestras, National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures, OPERA America, etc) about how their members were coping with the pandemic and what they were seeing.

You’ll find this in Appendix A. It can be worth reading to know you are not alone in the troubles you are facing.

For example:

NSOs also reported these key difficulties for members in reengaging with audiences or visitors:

◽Navigating local or state government reopening protocols (e.g., limitations on gatherings)
◽Securing union permissions
◽Audiences/visitors not following safety guidelines
◽Creating one-way flow in buildings not designed to accommodate routing
◽Cost of retrofitting and preparing safe venues for audiences
◽Accessibility issues that can result from reserved/advance ticketing policies

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.


Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to Butts In The Seats and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Thank you for subscribing.

Please enter a valid email address

Leave a Comment

Send this to a friend