The state’s Office of the Arts Wednesday issued guidelines for arts and culture organizations during the COVID-19 era that paint a clearer picture of safety changes likely coming to public venues as we exit lockdown — amounting to a less casual experience at live events and a major reconfiguring of live entertainment venues.
The office, under the Department of Economic and Community Development, partnered with the Connecticut Arts Alliance and nine regional services organizations on the lengthy document to help museums, theaters, concert venues and other arts locations as they plan a return to business in coming months.
The office said the working document’s guidelines are not to be construed as “best practices” for the arts and culture sector (which generates $9.3 billion annually and supports 58,932 jobs in Connecticut).
“They are meant to be strategic guidelines for organizations to consider as they reopen,” wrote Elizabeth Shapiro of the CT Office of the Arts in an email exchange. “They are not best practices or mandatory. The only thing that is mandatory is whatever the governor makes mandatory.”
In addition to guidelines on social distancing and masks for vulnerable employees, venues need to do effective cleaning and disinfecting, providing proper wipes and supplies to staff.
A formula for six-foot social distancing (aside from family members) means venues have to reassess maximum capacities in theaters and common areas.
In public spaces, the idea is to strive for low-touch entrances, exits and visits. Also urged are: timed ticket entry, designated flows for foot traffic, one-way traffic, no use of small spaces, interior doors kept open, limited use of touchscreen displays, hygiene screens in areas of close interaction, ticket sales online or by phone, downloadable brochures or guides, marked area of distancing between artistic personnel and audience, and audience masks recommended and possibly required — with the venue providing a mask if a visitor doesn’t have one.
There are also guidelines on signage about risks and reminders about handwashing, distancing, noncontact greetings and coughing/sneezing etiquette.
Venues are also urged to develop protocols for enforcement of rules.
Sanitation and hand-washing stations will be more numerous — in practice rooms, auditoriums, restrooms and entrances/exits.
Venues should adjust or improve the HVAC controls to increase the rate of air exchange and percentage of outdoor air that circulates into the ventilation system, say the guidelines.
As for food and beverage service in venues, the recommendation is to limit or cut out self-serve stations, buffets and water fountains.
Older volunteers may be denied work at venues, given a guideline that reads, “Consider limiting volunteer and docent programs that are staffed by individuals who may have a higher vulnerability to COVID-19 due to age and/or existence of pre-existing health conditions.”
The scale of artistic productions themselves is also in question, with the arts office suggesting theaters consider plays, productions, musicals or dances that have a limited number of performers on stage or in the pit. That means more one- to four-person plays and fewer full-orchestra symphony performances, potentially.