The nonprofit AT&T Performing Arts Center is among the 50+ arts and cultural organizations in Dallas who have developed a series of safety guidelines designed to reopen cultural venues during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite many organizations having unknown re-start dates, the Dallas arts community took the steps so when the infection and hospitalization rates subside, live, in-person cultural experiences can return to North Texas.
Center leadership was part of a special task force of Dallas arts leaders that developed the guidelines, which were reviewed by a top infectious disease expert. They 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.
“During this crisis, our diverse arts community worked collaboratively to build these standards, so our audiences, staff, volunteers, and artists feel safe returning to experience our art forms in person,” said Debbie Storey, president and CEO of the AT&T Performing Arts Center. “We want our patrons to know the many, many steps we are taking, what to expect of us when they get here, and what we expect of them.”
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.
The full list can be read on the Dallas Arts District’s web site.
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 participating 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.”