Cross-Discipline Pollination For Post-Covid Arts

Following the link tweeted by Ava Wong Davies got me to a lengthy blog post by Tim X. Atack about things that need to change in theatre post-Covid.  I will initially engaged by his insistence that the arts needs to stop citing the economic value of the arts when arguing why they need to be supported. As long time readers know, I am very much in agreement with this sentiment.

…there’s a growing feeling that over a year later, the driving focus is to get back to business as it was before the pandemic – maybe, even, to take steps backwards.

That feeling’s compounded by hearing, over and over, industry leaders using the language of our oppressors as justification for business as usual. I’m so so tired of the assertion that The Arts need to be protected because ‘they give five pounds back for every pound put in,’ like some Gordon Gecko hokey cokey. It might be true, but the people we’re making this upward argument to simply Do. Not. Fucking. Care. There are easier ways to make profit, without the messy business of creating art that makes you think about things and feel stuff.

And worse, when the bottom line becomes the principle reason work is made, defaults rule. The idea of art being life-changing or surprising or transformative actually becomes a threat when the main thing you want to do is keep an existing base happy. Theatre stops being alive and becomes transactional. Experiences become about promises made in return for money, rather than invitations to be part of something new, or bigger. Even political plays stop being political and become ‘about the politics’ instead, worthy but inert, leading nowhere.

Atack also broaches a subject I have been less enthusiastic about as a post-Covid reality, the digitization of the live performance experience. He argues from the perspective of the need for cross-disciplinary competency which makes the necessity feel less objectionable to me. (Though even an introvert like myself thinks the spark of having a live interaction with another over a shared experience is irreplaceable.)

At the start of lockdown I heard one artistic director say their theatre was ‘not about to become a film production studio’. But in truth, those kind of skills and cross-disciplinary thinking were shown to be desperately needed the very second theatres started uploading what felt like 1 million appallingly made films…


… All told, we might not want our theatres to entirely become film studios. But if we don’t regularly allow film-makers, and artists of other disciplines, into our theatre culture on progressive and free-thinking terms, to cross-pollinate and diversify the form, if we don’t modernise our concept of a theatre career, when the next virus comes we might as well just shut up shop and walk away.

As I said, his entry is a good length has has many other thoughts about the dynamics of the arts industry post-Covid so it may be worth taking a read to see if anything he says stimulates some thoughts for you as well.

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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