Yesterday Gov. DeWine announced the timeline for the first business re-openings in Ohio. Sadly arts venues were not among them, but we expected that. And while retail will be allowed to reopen on May 12, restaurants and bars remain closed without a projected reopen date, a hardship on many creatives who hold second jobs in the service industry.
I don’t envy Gov. DeWine or Dr. Acton right now. They have an incredibly difficult job to do, balancing the health of Ohio citizens with the increasingly dire financial circumstances that require some measure of response to mitigate the drastic toll this pandemic is taking on our economy.
Listening to lawmakers, businesses and citizens on both sides of the argument must be both incredibly challenging and heartbreaking. But my confidence has never been stronger that they both, along with the teams they have assembled, are working in the best interest of Ohio.
Those of us in the arts sector are no stranger to challenges and we are tackling this global pandemic with both creativity and gratitude for the support from our community. At the state level, Ohio Citizens for the Arts has been working with legislators and the governor’s office to make sure they understand the varying challenges of arts organizations—visual arts and cultural organizations face similar but different obstacles to reopening than performing organizations where people sit shoulder to shoulder in a theater.
The current guidelines for face coverings, social distancing and sanitizing will remain in place for some time to come, so even as things re-open life will be far from normal for all of us for quite a while. Thankfully, for some of our arts organizations these measures can be adapted into their operations. In Europe and Asia measures are being taken to reopen cultural institutions that are suitable to social distancing—such as museums. And our organizations have begun working on scenarios that reconfigure set up and where the typical will be reimagined in order to keep people safe.
The arts are an economic driver in our community, but right now—more importantly—they are critical to mental well-being. The overwhelming response to virtual arts offerings and the Curbside Concert series reminds us of our need to experience art together, no matter the twists in the path, no matter the method. Our artists and arts organizations will continue exploring innovative ways to provide art to our neighbors, including identifying safe options for future art experiences. Meanwhile, the Arts Council will remain committed to navigating this uncharted path alongside our organizations so that we all, collectively, find a new path forward.
— Tom Katzenmeyer, connect with Tom on LinkedIn.