State officials have released a set of guidelines for arts and cultural organizations to follow when considering reopening. The guidelines were compiled by the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development along with arts advocacy groups from around the state.
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“The intended purpose of this document is to provide a strategic road map for cultural organizations and arts organizations to plan for their reopening,” said Elizabeth Shapiro, director of the DECD’s Office of the Arts. “I would encourage that you walk, even crawl towards opening, and not run toward it, because there are still a lot of unknowns.”
The guidance is heavy on safety protocols -- things like creating clean workspaces for employees, maintaining a steady supply of cleaning supplies and PPE and creating low-touch entrances and exits for patrons. A big part of the safety component is managing a venue’s capacity.
“There’s a lot to consider,” said Shapiro. “This is really about knowing your venue. What is the audience flow? What do they need when they get there? Where are your bottlenecks going to be?”
To calculate capacities, the guidance recommends the organization divide the total square footage by the number of square feet required per person. It also recommends spacing people 6 feet apart per federal guidelines and that guests wear a face covering.
Communication is another key element of the plan, not only between employer and employee, but between the institution and its visitors.
“People support us because they trust us. We have to keep them updated on what our open hours are, what our staffing is going to be like, what the visitor experience is going to be like, whether or not they are going to be able to use a restroom when they are there,” said Shapiro. “We have a very sacred relationship with our visitors, and we can’t forget that.”
Connecticut’s creative sector was hit particularly hard by the pandemic. According to the national arts advocacy group Americans for the Arts, Connecticut arts and cultural organizations have lost almost $12 million in revenue.
The DECD says the sector accounts for 3.5% of the state’s GDP, generating $9.3 billion annually.