Fifty-one Dallas arts organizations have agreed to a lengthy list of safety precautions to inhibit the spread of COVID-19. Most participating venues and groups remain closed and the guidelines do not specify reopening dates. Individual companies will reopen when they can meet these new standards. The protocols include requiring masks, developing a ‘code of conduct’ for patrons and creating ‘low-touch’ or ‘touch-free’ purchases. ‘Pre-reserved” or timed entrances will be necessary for large audiences. The safety of staff members, contractors and visiting artists and lecturers is also addressed.
This unprecedented collaborative effort began in weekly meetings among the directors and managers of the arts organizations in the Dallas Arts District. Lily Weiss, executive director of the Dallas Arts District, said they were initially trying to organize a joint re-opening for the district.
“And because of that,” she said, “we decided to open this up for broader feedback and a collective voice.”
Participating arts groups include major organizations like the AT&T Performing Arts, city facilities like Moody Performance Hall and smaller groups like Avant Chamber Ballet and Echo Theatre. Even Klyde Warren Park is a signatory.
A number of Dallas arts organizations, large and small, are not represented on the list, though — including the Dallas Contemporary and Kitchen Dog Theater.
Weiss said, the entire effort is meant to be extremely flexible, to respond to individual organizations’ needs and timing. In fact, the guidelines are non-binding. They are intended, in part, to reassure the public that everything possible is being done to protect their health.
“We know that there are several organizations that are not going to open because of the spike [in COVID infection rates].” she said. “Some may not open until next year. We are going by science, by data. And as we know — from my own inbox, we’re all inundated with different kinds of approvals or surveys, etc. So I am hoping this is an evolving document that is meant to change as mandates change, and we’re hoping that we’ll have time to get more [organizations] on board.”
Weiss said the guidelines build on CDC, state, city and county requirements, and they were reviewed by an infectious disease expert at UTSouthwestern. They do not, however, address the requirements of, say, Actors’ Equity, which is safeguarding its members’ health through its own set of requirements. And these must be met before a theater company can receive an Equity union contract.
Equity’s protocols, Weiss said, are outside the purview of these guidelines. In other words, theater companies and Broadway import houses like the Dallas Summer Musicals and the Winspear Opera House, will have to get Equity approval on their own.
The full release, the guidelines and the list of participating arts groups:
DALLAS ARTS & CULTURE REOPENING GUIDELINES ESTABLISHED
51 GROUPS ADOPT COVID-19 SAFETY STANDARDS
(DALLAS) Despite many organizations having unknown re-start dates, the Dallas arts community is preparing for a safe reopening of facilities so they can resume bringing live, in-person cultural experiences to North Texas.
A task force of Dallas arts leaders has developed a series of safety guidelines designed to reopen cultural venues during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 51 organizations across the city adopting the standards. The guidelines, which were reviewed by a top infectious disease expert, were created to assure patrons, staff, artists, and volunteers that effective and thoughtful strategies and best practices are being implemented when doors are reopened to the public.
“The Dallas arts community has worked collaboratively during this unprecedented crisis so we can practice our art forms and serve our community while minimizing the risk to our guests, artists, and staff,” said Kim Noltemy, Ross Perot President and CEO of the Dallas Symphony and board chair of the Dallas Arts District, which assembled the task force. “We think these guidelines let everyone know what to expect when we reopen our doors, our exhibitions, and performances to the Dallas community.”
The reopening guidelines include:
- Building on policies, protocols, and requirements set by the CDC, State, City, and County officials.
- Requiring the use of face masks.
- Utilizing social distancing as a core principle in determining the number of visitors, ticketing, seating, and when mapping the patron experience.
- Creating a Code of Conduct that patrons must agree to, which outline key expectations including mask use, social distancing, staying home if experiencing symptoms, and treating staff, patrons, volunteers, and artists with patience and respect. Those that don’t comply will be asked to leave.
- Pre-reserved or timed entrances and exiting processes when dealing with large audiences.
- Working towards “low-touch” or “touch-free” ticketing and transactions.
In May and early June, Governor Greg Abbott published safety protocols to allow the reopening of museums and fine arts performance spaces. These include capacity limits to allow for social distancing. Task force members took those, along with strategies and best practices being implemented across the country to develop their guidelines. These were then reviewed by Dr. Trish Perl, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at UT Southwestern Medical Center, and her recommendations were incorporated.
“These guidelines are helping us carefully reopen, so people feel good about coming back – in person – to enjoy the magic of the arts,” said Lily Weiss, executive director of the Dallas Arts District. “Despite the hundreds of creative digital offerings that the cultural community has developed during this disruption, we know our audiences yearn for live cultural experiences, for everything from entertainment to inspiration to healing.”
The groups vary in size, art forms, genres, ethnic and cultural focus, and geographic location within Dallas. The organizations agree to use these guidelines as a baseline and will build on them to further enhance safety measures unique to their art forms, venues, audiences, and experiences.
While these guidelines provide a path, the timing of reopening is still uncertain. Due to the recent increase in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations in North Texas, many have paused their plans to reopen.
“We all have a laser focus on doing this safely,” said Weiss. “So if it means we have to wait a bit longer, that is fine. Meanwhile, the guidelines are solid and we are all working now to put them into place.”
Dallas Arts & Cultural Facility Guidelines and Participating Organizations:
As Texas works to reopen from its COVID-19 closures, members of the Dallas nonprofit arts and cultural community have created guidelines to resume operations once authorized to do so. The standards capture overarching safety principles and risk mitigation practices in our industries that will guide the policies and strategies unique to each organization’s art form, audiences, artists, and venues. This is a living document. We will regularly assess the evolving status of the pandemic in North Texas and will, in alignment with the latest scientific and medical recommendations, make changes accordingly. These guidelines have been reviewed by Dr. Trish Perl, Chief, Division of Infectious Diseases at UT Southwestern Medical Center and her recommendations have been incorporated.
Arts and culture define the identity of Dallas. It’s an industry which, before COVID-19, had an annual economic impact of close to $1B supporting 33,000 jobs. Each year, the economic impact generated by these small businesses produce more than $45M in local tax revenues.*1
Our diverse, growing cultural community has supported our reputation as a creative, vibrant city helping to attract talent, jobs, and corporate relocations to Dallas. They create economic, cultural, tourism, and quality-of-life ripple effects touching every corner of our city. To resume operations, we are adopting reasonable measures as a roadmap to reduce risk moving forward while providing a safe, welcoming, and respectful patron experience.
Guiding Principles for Reopening to the Public
Each organization will determine risk mitigation factors for external and internal conditions that will allow for its reopening and ongoing specific operating procedures. This builds on the guidance from the Governor, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and City and County health and public safety authorities.
Before reopening, each organization will develop its own risk mitigation plans for its unique venues and art form that will address:
- Patrons and guests
- Artists, lecturers, visiting companies and back-of-house staff
- Docents, ushers, volunteers, concessions and front-of-house staff
- Contractors (i.e. security, parking, concessions, etc.)
- Office staff
- Equity and accessibility
DALLAS ARTS & CULTURAL FACILITY OPENING GUIDELINES
To reassure the public, our staff, and our artists, we will work to achieve the following safety and risk mitigation measures:
- Maintain social distancing as a core principle in determining the number of public visitors in our venues and in creating our patron flow and experience models. This includes seating and ticketing maps, alongside reduced numbers of visitors in spaces and highly encouraged advance ticket sales for museums.
- Require patrons to bring and use their own face coverings in our venues. The venue will supply masks to those who neglected to bring them. Requirements may vary for outdoor spaces.
- Create a Code of Conduct for staff, artists, volunteers, and patrons that:
- 1. Outlines key expectations including mask use, personal temperature checks, social distancing, and respect for other
- 2. Asks patrons to check this box in the ticketing purchase path (if technology supports.)
- 3. Patrons who do not comply with these guidelines may be asked to leave the premises.
- Require face masks and good hand hygiene for all staff who engage with the public and, where necessary, face shields.
- Map the patron experience to reduce or eliminate points of contact or create social distancing.
- When and where possible, create “touch-free” or “low-touch” entrances, exits, money transactions, ticket scanning, etc.
- Provide alcohol hand sanitizer and stations to facilitate good hand hygiene practices.
- Institute enhanced cleaning protocols, including frequent disinfection of “high-touch” door handles, elevators, and restrooms. Provide multiple sanitizing stations.
- Monitor public spaces to facilitate social distancing.
- When large attendance numbers are expected, work to achieve a balanced arrival, entry, and exit process through timed tickets, pre-reserved entry and exit times, or other means to achieve this purpose.
- Develop strong strategies, both pre-arrival and onsite, that clearly communicate policies in place, health and safety measures taken, and what to expect in the patron path during their visit.
- Consider the use of acrylic screens, face shields, or similar protective barriers at key customer contact points in the patron path.
- No docent-guided tours will be allowed in the opening phase.
- Self-parking will be encouraged with updated protocols and training for parking employees, contractors, and volunteers.
- Work to support infection tracking efforts by local health officials when the situation warrants.
- Work with the facility’s engineering team to maximize air circulation and filtration systems where possible.
- With the government’s social distancing capacity limits as the legally allowed base, individual organizations may determine that a higher capacity must be reached to reopen in a safe and fiscally responsible way unique to their art form, venue, and experience.
Theaters, Lecture Halls, and Concert Halls:
- Create ticketing and seating strategies to ensure appropriate social distancing between individuals or parties while providing a good performance experience.
- Develop strategies to achieve social distancing in backstage spaces to protect artists and technical crews before, during, and after performances.
- Encourage the artists/producers to choose or adapt creative content, and develop staging strategies that mitigate the risk to artists, crews, and technicians during performances.*****This document represents the consensus view of the organizations listed below and is not intended to be binding on any of them. None of the organizations involved in the preparation of this document will have any liability to any person for a failure, inadvertently or intentionally, to follow, implement or enforce any of the policies and procedures described herein, and no person may rely on the policies or procedures as a basis for asserting any claim against any organization.
Participating Dallas Cultural Organizations
- Anita N. Martinez Ballet Folklorico
- American Baroque Opera Company
- AT&T Performing Arts Center
- Avant Chamber Ballet
- Beckles Dancing Company
- Bishop Arts Theatre Company
- Bruce Wood Dance
- Chamber Music International
- Children’s Chorus of Greater Dallas
- City of Dallas Office of Arts and Culture: Majestic Theatre – Moody Performance Hall – South Dallas Cultural Center – Latino Cultural Center
- Creative Arts Center of Dallas
- Crow Museum of Asian Art, University of Texas at Dallas<
- Cry Havoc Theater Company
- Dallas Bach Society
- Dallas Black Dance Theatre
- Dallas Chamber Symphony
- Dallas Children’s Theater
- Dallas Heritage Village at Old City Park
- Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum
- Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture
- Dallas Museum of Art
- The Dallas Opera
- Dallas Summer Musicals
- Dallas Symphony Orchestra
- Dallas Theater Center
- Dance Council of North Texas
- Danielle Georgiou Dance Group
- Echo Theatre
- Fine Arts Chamber Players
- Indique Dance Company
- Junior Players
- Klyde Warren Park
- Lone Star Wind Orchestra
- Lyric Stage
- Ollimpaxqui Ballet
- Orchestra of New Spain
- Orpheus Chamber Singers
- Nasher Sculpture Center
- Perot Museum of Nature and Science
- The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza
- Sammons Center for the Arts
- Shakespeare Dallas
- Soul Rep Theatre Company
- Texas Ballet Theater
- TITAS/Dance Unbound
- Turtle Creek Chorale
- Undermain Theatr
- Uptown Players
- Verdigris Ensemble
- The Women’s Chorus of Dallas
- *1 2015 Arts & Economic Prosperity 5, City of Dallas, Americans for the Arts
Got a tip? Email Jerome Weeks at [email protected]. You can follow him on Twitter @dazeandweex.
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