Protecting Our Future Normal

“I just can’t wait till things go back to normal.” How many times have you heard someone say that on a news broadcast lately? How many times has that thought crossed your own mind, even if you don’t believe it’s really possible? Living in this time of COVID-19 is hard, and one of the things keeping us going is a desire to return to the things we love. But what are we doing to protect this future “normal”? What are we doing to ensure the things we love are still with us when this is all over?


I read in a newsletter from our local Music District that a recent survey indicated 90% of our independent music venues will not survive this pandemic unless they receive assistance from the government. It makes sense. A music venue exists solely to host concerts and events. They can’t easily change their model. Think now of your favorite places to hear music and imagine they are all gone.


It’s the models so few people really understand. For most theaters to remain open, for example, they have to have at least a few sell-out shows or a consistent audience attendance. That’s not going to happen while audience capacity is rightly limited or while people are justifiably afraid to enter enclosed places.

For most musicians to make money, they need to get paid by the local venue and put out a tip jar and sell their merchandise in the back of the room and hope that someone will see the show and invite them to perform at their venue too. Asking for donations via Venmo during a livestream performance will rarely bring in the income they are accustomed to making. Musicians and the venues that host them have a symbiotic relationship. The same is true of visual artists. For most painters to earn a living, they have to be able sell their work at galleries, shops, or markets. Sales there are typically much more robust than any that might come from most artists’ websites alone. I’m showing only the tip of the iceberg here, but you get the gist.


And then there are the arts organizations, the ones that provide free music or writing lessons to low-income children or public art exhibits where families can come and participate. The success of the arts relies on a model of introducing children to art. It’s those kids who will grow up not only to be the artists of the future, but the arts enthusiasts and supporters.


The arts are hurting right now. Please don’t let anyone tell you differently. And, yes, artists are creative and, yes, they are working on new models, but in the meantime, it’s up to us to protect the things we love.


So, if you haven’t figured out what to do with that stimulus check yet, and if your budget allows, won’t you consider making some donations to the theaters, music venues, art museums, and arts organizations in your areas? Or if you have time, can you contact your representatives and urge them to protect the arts? If we want to someday return to “normal,” we’ve got to make sure there is a normal to which to return.

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