A Few Lessons From Covid and SVOG

I was attending the Association of Performing Arts Professionals conference recently and sat in on a Life After SVOG session. There were a number of things discussed that either fell into the category of “the pandemic revealed the need for this” or “this was always a problem and the pandemic revealed the need for change.”

In the former category, representatives from the National Independent Talent Organization (NITO) and National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) both mentioned that it became clear that there was a need for affordable touring insurance.

The NITO rep also brought up the need to have more transparency about ticketing fees. I didn’t get a chance to seek clarification, but my assumption was that since the organization represents the artists, they were questioning whether the venue was making revenue on performances that was being excluded from what was supposed to be shared with the performers.

In terms of overall advocacy, there was discussion about breaking down silos and making common cause with other industries in the future. For example, while arts groups were successful in getting relief for organizations and individual artists in the form of millions of dollars, there was a group advocating for aid for workers excluded from payroll based programs like PPP which secured relief in the billions, some of which arts and culture workers were eligible to receive.

Along those same lines, the way the relief programs were administered varied from state to state. In Oregon offered grants to individual artists whereas New York didn’t. So there is a perceived need to ensure people and groups which were excluded in programs in the pandemic aren’t overlooked in the next crisis simply because they reside in a different state.

In terms of problems which always existed that have come to the fore, panelists mentioned that cultural workers had started to demand organizations reconcile their internal cultural to their externally declared culture. Basically, organizations would publicly advocate for a fairness and equity they didn’t provide their own staffs. Among the results have been unionization efforts among museums and theaters revising their un(der) paid intern and apprentice programs.

Another thing that people will probably says has been revealed is the hunger they have felt to be assembling again live at conferences. As much as people complained about attending conferences in the past, there are exchanges that happen in person that aren’t possible when you are half paying attention to a video screen while working in another screen.

For example, the ego boosting experience of people telling you how great your blog is and wanting to take selfies…

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 (artshacker.com) 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. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

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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