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NEA The Art of Reopening Replay | Dr. Fauci Still Hopeful for Reopening of Theaters this Fall

Stage Directions • Industry NewsTheatre Buzz • March 24, 2021

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) held the first of a series of virtual conversations on Tuesday, March 23rd. These conversations build upon the NEA’s The Art of Reopening: A Guide to Current Practices Among Arts Organizations During COVID-19, the January 2021 report which examined reopening practices of organizations that resumed in-person programming in 2020 and presents promising tactics and nine case studies. Here’s a video replay of this meeting:

Opening remarks for this first conversation were made by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Fauci maintains his forecast that performance venues could potentially be able to welcome back full audiences by fall. “This is no guarantee,” he commented. “At least initially, we may still need to wear masks. But if we continue to vaccinate as many people as we can as quickly as possible, however, I believe we will achieve a broad umbrella of protection—somewhere between 70 to 85% of people vaccinated—by late summer or early fall. Those who are vaccinated will not only protect themselves, but also will serve as a dead end to virus spread, protecting the minority remaining who either cannot or have not been vaccinated.”

After Dr. Fauci’s opening remarks, representatives from three of the organizations highlighted in the report explored reopening opportunities and challenges facing arts organizations in 2021. Sunil Iyengar, director of the Arts Endowment’s Office of Research & Analysis, moderated the conversation with Scott Altman, president & CEO, Cincinnati Ballet, Cincinnati, Ohio; Chloe Cook, executive director, Sidewalk Film Center & Cinema, Birmingham, Alabama; Rebecca Read Medrano, co-founder and executive director, GALA Hispanic Theatre, Washington, DC.

The NEA will continue to hold similar virtual conversations with representatives from other arts organizations on a monthly basis.

Dr. Fauci was appointed director of NIAID in 1984. He oversees an extensive research portfolio of basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose, and treat established infectious diseases. He has been a visible and highly esteemed leader in the fight against COVID-19 and currently serves on the White House COVID-19 Response Team.

Acting Chairman of the Arts Endowment Ann Eilers said, “The National Endowment for the Arts is honored to have Dr. Fauci participate in the agency’s The Art of Reopening webinar. His expertise, commitment, and compassion have been critical to the nation’s ability to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. His guidance will remain of the utmost importance in our continued progress in the country and towards full reengagement with the arts and audiences.”

The event is based in part on the NEA’s report The Art of Reopening: A Guide to Current Practices Among Arts Organizations During COVID-19 that was published in January 2021. The report examines reopening practices of organizations that resumed in-person programming in 2020 and presents promising tactics and nine case studies.

In March 2021, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan, which appropriated $135 million to the Arts Endowment. Forty percent of this funding will be awarded directly to state and regional arts agencies to distribute through their funding programs, and the remainder through the agency’s competitive process. Guidelines for these grants are anticipated to be released in late April; check out NEAs FAQs for more information.

Congress appropriated $75 million to the National Endowment for the Arts through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act in 2020 to preserve jobs and help support organizations forced to close operations due to the spread of COVID-19. All funds were committed by the agency within three months of the bill’s passage. Grant awards were fully obligated within five months.

The NEA knows that there are more than five million Americans who make their livelihoods in the broader arts and cultural sector across the country and are potentially at risk. They also know that the arts provide comfort, resilience, wisdom, and the means for self-expression and connection, perhaps even more so during challenging times such as these. They have relief resources and opportunities related to COVID-19 available on its website, and they will continue to update these sections with new information as it becomes available.


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