Supporting the Arts (and Science)

Guest Correspondence

This past week, a group of leading Sarasota County arts organizations united in agreeing to uphold vigilant health and safety protocols for their audiences and artists, staffs and volunteers.

Initially announced by nine performing arts groups in partnership with the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County, the #SafeArtsSarasota initiative provides clarity, consistency, protection and comfort for patrons and performers alike. Many other arts and cultural agencies have joined in committing to implement and share guidelines that mirror or complement the unified protocols as appropriate for their own particular facilities, activities and personnel.

The initiative is good news for arts and culture and for public health. It’s also good business. To thrive, many organizations must operate at a higher audience capacity than they have in past months. The new guidelines will enable that in the safest possible environment. The organizations also commit to revisit and revise the protocols as federal health guidance and pandemic-related conditions evolve. That shows our arts community being responsive to and responsible for the needs of our entire community.

Sarasota’s arts and cultural sector has been among the hardest hit by the pandemic. Canceled seasons, dark stages and shuttered spaces have had devastating financial and quality-of-life costs. Of course, our stalwart arts partners remained resilient and creative in the face of this crisis. (Check out this video produced a few months ago for examples.) But just as our region readied for a new and more “normal” performance season…the latest surge of the insidious coronavirus called everything into question.

It’s no surprise that, once again, Sarasota’s arts leaders are acting creatively, collaboratively and confidently on behalf of audiences and artists alike. I had a front-row seat to their thoughtful deliberation and decisive action, and I can’t overstate how careful and courageous they have been. As leaders like Rebecca Hopkins (Florida Studio Theatre), Linda DiGabriele (Asolo Rep), Richard Russell (Sarasota Opera), and Joseph McKenna (Sarasota Opera) have articulated on behalf of their organizations and their partners, #SafeArtsSarasota is about keeping Sarasota’s arts and culture community viable and vital.

The creative arts supply our community with unique and unmatched joy—something we lost in so many aspects of our lives over the past year and a half. We need the arts in Sarasota. Our artists and artistic organizations need us. #SafeArtsSarasota is a compact that offers safety, opportunity and inspiration for all.

Mark Pritchett is President and CEO of Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

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