Most Dallas arts organizations have not yet said when their lights will go back on — but they have said how.
Fifty-one cultural and arts groups from across the city collaborated on a list of "Covid-19 safety standards," which were unveiled Thursday, July 16. The organizations — led by a task force of Dallas arts leaders working with a top infectious disease expert — aimed to institute uniform guidelines to keep patrons, staff, artists, and volunteers healthy when live, in-person cultural experiences resume.
“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," Kim Noltemy, Ross Perot President and CEO of the Dallas Symphony and board chair of the Dallas Arts District, which assembled the task force, says in a release. “We think these guidelines let everyone know what to expect when we reopen our doors, our exhibitions, and performances to the Dallas community."
Building on protocols and requirements set by the Centers for Disease Control and local officials, the guidelines include:
• Requiring the use of face masks.
• Using social distancing as a guiding principle in determining the number of visitors, ticketing, and seating available.
• Creating a Code of Conduct that patrons must agree to. These include expectations about mask use, social distancing, staying home if experiencing symptoms, and treating staff, patrons, volunteers, and artists with patience and respect, they say. Patrons who don't comply will be asked to leave.
• Pre-reserved or timed entrances and exiting processes when dealing with large audiences.
• Working toward “low-touch” or “touch-free” ticketing and transactions.
Most concerts, exhibitions, and productions were canceled or postponed in March when the coronavirus pandemic started to take hold in Dallas. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott allowed "fine arts performance halls" to reopen with limited capacity in early June — but most chose not to.
Just one major Dallas museum, the Perot Museum of Science and History, announced a reopening date, which was to be July 9. But when COVID-19 cases in Dallas County began to spike last month, the museum decided to remain closed. Several large museums in Fort Worth have reopened.
A recent survey showed Dallas arts organizations have lost of more than $33 million and over 600 jobs since the pandemic began.
The new guidelines will provide a path to safely reopening venues in Dallas. But they'll be built on, as needed, to further enhance safety measures unique to each art form, venue, audience, and experience, the organizations' leaders say.
“These guidelines are helping us carefully reopen, so people feel good about coming back — in person — to enjoy the magic of the arts,” says Lily Weiss, executive director of the Dallas Arts District, in the release. “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.”