You Can Lead A Patron To The Door, But Only They Decide If They Feel Safe Stepping In

As something of a dovetail to my post yesterday about Drew McManus’ effort to compile a database of performing arts venue vaccination policies, (Drew reported a surge of new entries to the database overnight which I am going to credit completely to my readers), Colleen Dilenschneider posted last week that performing arts and museum audiences are increasingly interested in returning to masking requirements. (emphasis original)

At our last published masking data update (July 2), IMPACTS Experience found that 43% of high-propensity visitors to cultural entities in the United States believed that organizations should require all visitors to wear a mask. That was down from 53% on June 18, 62% on June 4, and 67% on May 2. People were feeling more comfortable going maskless!

But the percentages are going back up again.

As of August 13, 61% of high-propensity visitors to museums and performing arts organizations in the US believe these entities should mandate masks when indoors for all visitors again.

In my post yesterday, I suggested the database being compiled by McManus could be useful in supporting a case people might want to make for the implementation of masking and vaccination requirements. As Dilenschneider notes in the beginning of her post, organizational and government policy statements don’t drive attendance in and of themselves. The individual makes their own determinations about their health and safety. (my emphasis this time)

While the research is clear that potential visitors across the country are generally desiring mask mandates again and those organizations that do not have them risk jeopardizing attendance, some regions of the US don’t allow organizations to require masks…We understand that this kind of market research could be even more difficult to digest for these entities – and we hear you. Oof. However, how comfortable – or uncomfortable – people feel visiting a cultural institution given its safety protocols doesn’t change just because an entity cannot take a certain action to keep visitors safe….

Remember: Cultural leaders don’t get to decide how guests feel about their own safety, and neither does the CDC. Potential guests decide for themselves what makes them feel comfortable.

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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