Info You Can Use: Database of Performing Arts Venue Vax Policies

Drew McManus has started a database of the different policies performing arts venues around the country have enacted.  He started it last Friday and announced the 100th entry this morning. If you follow the links, you can see both the database and a form with which you can provide information about your venue or venues in your community.

I immediately passed it around to members of my consortium as soon as I saw it last Friday. Probably the biggest value it has is providing guidance and a bit of moral support for performing arts organizations around the country so that if they are getting push back from boards and higher ups, they can point to other entities around the country and in their region who are taking certain steps.

For the venue I run, most of the self-sponsored shows on our schedule are happening in the Spring so we were just starting to formulate the beginnings of a policy when groups renting from us over the next three months contacted us to tell us what measures they would like to take. In one case we were surprised by how rigorous one group’s standards were because were concerned their audience was the type to vocally push back. It turned out their policies were heavily driven by the insistence of the artists who were scheduled to perform.

It has been a week since they made an announcement about their policies and it doesn’t appear they have had more than a couple people requesting refunds. It has shown us that everyone’s input has something to contribute to policy creation and not to make broad assumptions about how audiences will react.

Take a look at the database and add your information as you can.

 

Resource: Performing Arts Org Vax Policy Database

Free Admission Wasn’t Useful But Will It Become Necessary?

According to CityLab Berliners are returning to the city’s museums, with credit being given to free admission Sundays.  Sixty-seven museums are offering free admission which is part of a larger effort to explore ways in which people can assemble during the pandemic.

 

Participating museums are required to follow hygiene and distancing rules. Offering free entrance to the museums alone won’t bring back crowds to the city center — people need to feel it is safe to visit museums and public places again, said Klaus Lederer, Berlin’s Senator for Culture and Europe.

[…]

The Museum Sunday is also one of several cultural happenings in Berlin that has found a way to attract visitors amid a sustained global health crisis. Events like the Berlin Art Week, the open-air event Draussenstadt and the Clubculture reboot weekend, a pilot project to experiment how partying can work during a pandemic, are taking place in Berlin this summer.

The free admission Sundays were being planned prior to the pandemic as a way to attract a broader audience. In the US at least research has shown that free admission doesn’t really attract new visitors, but rather attract those who already visit the museum thereby delaying their next potential paid visit by a year or two. Hearing about a similar plan in Berlin made me wonder if the same held true for Germany or if there are are more nuanced dynamics at work there.

This being said, given that people have had 18+ months of not attending public events, a situation that may extend into the near future, it may be necessary to offer free admission to entice the return of those who would normally visit. What that portends for the future remains to be seen.

There Will Be More Dancing In The Streets

I saw an article on CityLab about some pretty successful Open Streets efforts that rose up during Covid.  If you aren’t familiar with the concept, Open Streets is a national effort to temporarily close streets down to traffic to allow for community use of the space.

Where I live, a local organization works to shut streets down a couple times a year in different neighborhoods around the city. Part of the local effort has been to perform different projects which help make the streets safer by making drivers slow down and become more aware of pedestrians.

I was surprised to read in the CityLab piece that one group successfully managed to shut down a 30 block span of a street in NYC for 12 hours every. single. day.  While technically that is a temporary shut down of the street, it is increasingly becoming a permanent feature.

Programming was paramount. Practically each day, there is something going on in the street. Salsa and the Colombian coin toss game of sapo on Tuesdays. Family bike rides on Friday. The avenue even has its own newsletter. “If you don’t activate the street, people won’t feel comfortable using it,” said Burke.

Alejandra Lopez, a local resident, had stopped by last week for a bike helmet, but they were all out. Instead, she found out about the English classes that are also held on the avenue, which brought her back today. The Open Street reminded Lopez of her hometown, Bogotá, and its famous weekly Ciclovía. “This is like the evolution of that,” she said, carrying a new helmet in one hand.

The daily effort is driven by 100 volunteers and is mostly funded by donations. Some of the people who teach the language and dance classes are paid a stipend, but most all the work is done by volunteers. The vision, however, is to turn it into a work training program.

The program could provide summer jobs for teens, or re-entry training for formerly incarcerated people, with transferable carpentry and landscaping skills. (Burke called for crossing guards to be hired from nearby communities.) To Maerowitz, the Open Street could be more than just a space to spread out: It could be a site where one’s community is strengthened.

“We can give neighbors ownership of the street through work,” she said.

The article talks about some of the issues and tensions that have emerged in different Open Streets projects around the country. There is always push back and anger from some drivers at having streets shutdown, but organizers have discovered some socio-economic forces at work as well. There has been criticism that Open Streets projects are often sited in wealthier neighborhoods, but some have observed that there is often resistance in poorer neighborhoods based in skepticism about broken promises of the past as well as lack of consultation and communication with residents.

Last year, the launch of Oakland’s Slow Streets program faced a barrage of criticism over lack of community input, with Black and low-income residents expressing far less enthusiasm for the traffic restrictions.

[…]

…in poorer areas, they hit resistance, highlighting disparities ingrained in traffic violence. If a neighbor in a marginalized community grumbles at a program meant to enhance safety, and the response is to scrap instead of fix, something else may be at play there.

“When you apply the layer of historical trauma that communities of color have experienced, it’s a reaction formation,” Logan said. “I’ve been so hurt from you that it’s easier to push you away than to collaborate and figure out a solution. The last time we talked about promises, you broke that.”

Low Wear And Tear Is Not Necessarily A Good Thing

We ran into an unanticipated complication of the Covid epidemic last week.

You may have heard that cars are engineered to operate more efficiently at highway speeds because engines get hot enough for a long enough period to burn off impurities, etc. (Though certainly hybrids are well on the way to turning that situation around.)

Well apparently there is something similar at work with septic systems.

A combination of smaller audiences; new, low water use toilets; and the flushing of supposedly “disposable” wipes over the last year meant there was not enough water flow through the pipes to keep things clear. When one thing snagged and came to rest, there was insufficient pressure to ensure the next things through passed by.

And lest you think this is a problem experienced by older, historic buildings, the issue was exacerbated by plumbing installed during a renovation completed three years ago. As the guys who came to address the issue said, it was up to code but the people who installed it never had to service their own work.

My suspicion is that as many venues gear up to to return to capacity they will find that the low demands placed on their infrastructure during the last year hasn’t necessarily forestalled degradation and, in fact, may have resulted in new problems.

We were fortunate in that we were sensitive to some early warning signs and took some action to investigate, otherwise things may have backed up at the next large capacity event. Folks would do well to be a little paranoid about unfamiliar, but seemingly minor sights, smells and sounds as they prepare for the return of audiences. It may pay to take extra time to examine equipment and technology, especially if you assume there shouldn’t be anything wrong with it after so much inactivity.

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