The Creative Community and COVID-19

On March 10, Gov. Baker declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts in response to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak. Even before this declaration, responses to COVID-19 were already affecting our community in significant ways. Some of our member organizations, partners, and artists have had to cancel long-scheduled performances and events. Others have seen drops in attendance. And still others are struggling with how to move forward during this time of great uncertainty. 

Keeping our communities safe is of paramount importance, and I’m writing with some resources that you may find helpful. First and foremost is the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MA DPH) website, which maintains up-to-date guidance on COVID-19 and is updated daily.

In his declaration yesterday, Gov. Baker urged the public to avoid large public gatherings. Although he did not specify a number, the MA DPH has been clear in its verbal guidance on this point: try to find ways to give people more physical space so that they aren’t in close contact as much as possible (6 feet is recommended). 

This, of course, is not good news if you’re in the business of creating community through culture! But the only way we are going to get through this outbreak is by caring for the communities we have worked so hard to create. Some of us may not personally be vulnerable to becoming ill from the virus. But some of us, through age or underlying health conditions are. Regardless, we all have loved ones who are vulnerable to acquiring the infection and so we all bear responsibility to slow the spread of COVID-19 by following advice from MA DPH to wash our hands, stay home when we are sick, cough into tissues or our elbows, and avoid large public gatherings.

Caring for creative community will eventually mean grappling with the longer-term impact on the financial health of the sector as events and gigs continue to be cancelled, impacting revenue and income to both nonprofits and individual artists. Right now, Massachusetts Nonprofit Network and Philanthropy Massachusetts are circulating a Flash Poll to collect data about the impact on nonprofit organizations, including the creative community. We expect to see a government response to the potentially devastating financial impact of COVID-19, and MASSCreative will be advocating to ensure that the needs of the arts and culture sector are considered and included. 

Until then, this comprehensive blog post by Americans for the Arts provides sound advice to arts organizations on dealing with the COVID-19 crisis such as reviewing ticket-refund policies and communicating with audiences and stakeholders. It also points readers to Arts Ready, an online emergency preparedness service providing a wealth of resources to arts and cultural nonprofit leaders stewarding their organizations through crises. It also recommends this free webinar by Event Safety Alliance, which addresses COVID-19-related crisis planning for small organizations. 

Other helpful resources include CERF+, a grassroots nonprofit that creates safety nets for artists, and The National Coalition for Arts’ Preparedness and Emergency Response. The Mass Cultural Council has also published a blog post with COVID-19-related guidance for grant recipients

Last, we would like to take a moment to acknowledge the burden of racism and xenophobia some members of our community are facing in the public response to COVID-19. As artists, makers, and creators of every race, ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation, and gender identity, it is critical that we do not let racist messages and stereotypes pass by without comment.

We are creators of art, music, dance, and exquisite beauty. We are also creators of community. As we respond to COVID-19, taking care of ourselves and each other, let us keep our community front and center. 

In the weeks to come, we will continue to share resources with the creative community. If you have ideas to share, please let us know! MASSCreative is here as an advocate and partner to support you.

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