Arts Organizations Feather the Brakes on Reopening with #SafeArtsSarasota

Arts & Culture

Photo Credit: Cliff Roles.

As a return to normal shines bright and hopeful at the end of some dark existential tunnel, the reality of the pandemic still weighs heavily in the decisions of arts leaders. Experts continue to warn of new waves of infection even as the most vulnerable have attained a measure of protection from an aggressive vaccination effort. Across the region, theatres and halls must balance their eagerness to reopen with the reality that we’re close, but not quite there yet.

To safeguard against an onrush of arts patrons eager to shed their cabin fever and fill the region’s theatres and performance halls, nine of the area’s biggest organizations banded together to launch #SafeArtsSarasota. The initiative, which came out of the deepened inter-organizational relationships precipitated by the pandemic, serves as a unified response to the gradual reopening of performing art venues. By incorporating the latest science-based guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control along with the various stipulations of artist unions, these nine organizations have provided the region with a baseline framework with which to alleviate any uncertainty and anxiety in wary patrons.

Masks (covering nose and mouth) and social distancing remain central to these protocols, but throughout the shutdown, each organization put their heads together to share other ideas for best practices. The result is a broadly informed standard for; disinfecting performance spaces, the implementation of touch-free ticketing, daily health checks for staff and performers, temperature checks for patrons, no concessions or playbills, and single entry and exit points to minimize the crush of guests before and after a performance.

Over the next nine weeks, SRQ will unveil commentary from each of the nine originators of the safety initiative, beginning today with Sarasota Opera’s executive director, Richard Russell:

“When these conversations started, we talked about how we were getting the gamut of responses. Some felt we shouldn’t open at all, others thought we shouldn’t make them wear a mask. So it became clear that we needed a plan and then we just thought, ‘hey, why don’t we get together and promote our safety measures?’ When you see us all as a whole, we’re the second or third largest employer in the region, and that was really important when we were lobbying local government for funding. But the most important thing is safety.”

Photo Credit: Cliff Roles.

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