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June 5, 2020: "On Re-Thinking Artistic Homes"

Good day, 

The pandemic’s devastating effect on arts groups created the need to accumulate and analyze data to help answer the question: When will artists and audiences return to their cultural organizations?


A deeper question in light of the nationwide protests following George Floyd's death in police custody and the subsequent calls for change — both systemic and personal — is: What will they be returning to?


Life as it existed before Covid-19? A new ‘normal’? Or something much more responsive to what we are now learning, not only through surveys, but on the streets. It’s a fertile time to research to these complex questions,


Over the past three months we saw the pandemic not only derailing business models but exposing  inadequacies in programming, deficiencies in equality and the limitations of mission statements. A different kind of social distancing has been going on long before the co-vid crisis.


On Tuesday, many cultural organizations participated in “The Show Must Be Paused” initiative to reflect on the larger issues of racism and the need for institutional change in the arts, cultural and entertainment sectors.


While many were initially silent, this week members of the non-for-profit arts community issued many declarations of support and commitment. There have been a substantial conversations on race among cultural groups —  and even a spike in sales of anti-racism books.  


But will this moment go beyond words, black theater leaders wonder?  


The for-profit entertainment industry at least announced a series of financially-supported initiatives and actions to aid social justice groups. 


But it’s not always a smooth or direct road to understanding and change. Some responses and actions by arts groups have been criticized as being insensitive or hollow, putting a spotlight on institutional cultural biases. 


How not-for-profit groups connect with their communities is widely seen as a vital part in how institutions recover as they now craft various re-opening scenarios, establish health and safety measures, build more sustainable business models, and reexamine programming platforms and models. 


But there is concern too, as organizations prepare for the eventual re-opening of their doors, how diversity, equality and inclusion efforts will factor into the future. This concern is expressed in a report from the Harvard Business Journal.


Offering assistance for all — including arts groups — is The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., which has released a new online portal to facilitate conversations about race and racism in America. 


This week has shown that simply navigating the safe return of audiences back into the theaters, halls and museums is not enough. Race is an integral part of the conversations in the surveying of arts institutions, large and small. Opening even more doors is an important measurement, too, and shows that everyone counts.



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