Community Creativity: A New Normal for Arts Groups and Events

By Recker McDowell —

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit arts groups, galleries, and venues extremely hard. Performances, showings, fundraising events, and festivals have been canceled or postponed.

Gerd Wuestemann, president and CEO of Scottsdale Arts said during a recent digital forum that most arts organizations across the state have had to lay off workers or furlough staff because of COVID-19 and its impacts.

Wuestemann said Scottsdale Arts had been able to avoid cuts but stressed the need arts groups and venues to be innovative and creative as they navigate COVID, social distancing and sometimes older audiences.

For Scottsdale Arts that could mean more outdoor performances to help with social distancing and building confidence among attendees. Wuestemann said plans are being made for an outdoor concert feature Blues and Gospel legend Mavis Staples in November. He also said Scottsdale Arts could use Scottsdale Stadium for events and performances in the fall. This is an idea that the city and community should get behind when it makes sense to host events again.

We are not sure yet when COVID-19 cases will subside and there will be enough confidence to hold events. But arts groups, sports teams and venues and event planners are already and need to continue to find safe and creative ways to host events when the COVID storm hopefully eases.

We have seen some of that with drive-in concerts and movies as well as outdoor art shows with masks and social distancing. But that also requires creativity and flexibility from government agencies who regulate events and public entities who own stadiums, ballparks, and public plazas.

Safety and public health are top priorities. Still, we need to think about the economic devastation COVID has and could continued to cause. The virus threatens lives as well as livelihoods.

The arts are one of Scottsdale’s essential brands. It drives tourism, creates jobs and it is part of the community’s soul.

As we navigate best practices (especially wearing masks and social distancing), those organizing, hosting, and regulating events need to have open minds and be innovative and creative going forward.

In the meantime, consumers and businesses should do their best to help arts groups, local artists, and galleries. Local governments also need to make sure arts and culture are priorities as they allocate CARES Act funds and look for creative ways to help us all navigate the Coronavirus.