Re-Opening the Arts Safely: How You Can Help by Being an Advocate

ACSO is part of a statewide task force, convened by Californians for the Arts, to advocate for re-opening the arts safely. This group is committed to working together in advocacy to educate the state on guidelines needed and sharing resources so that communities across California can begin to access the arts again and we can get back to work.

California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) is drafting outdoor live performance guidelines and looking at aligning live arts performances with movie theater reopening guidelines, but it is up to the California Department of Public Health to issue any guidelines.

Now is the time for all ACSO members to get involved in advocating for our sector.

GO-Biz told the task force that one of the best advocacy routes for getting the state to prioritize developing live performance re-opening guidelines is for arts organizations to request their county public health departments write letters to the California Department of Public Health (attn: Ms. Sandra Shewry, Acting Director of California Department of Public Health, 1616 Capitol Ave, Sacramento, CA 95814) asking for state guidelines for live performances, and to share with the state what guidelines are being used, if any, at the local county level. If your county health officer or department agrees to write a letter, and if your mayor is also willing to write a letter, please ask them to send a copy to California Arts Advocates.

Arts organizations should also write their own letters to Governor Newsom, copying Ms. Sandra Shewry, Acting Director of California Department of Public Health, and all your state elected officials - Senate and Assembly. Click here to find your state elected officials.

TIPS AND TALKING POINTS TO HELP CRAFT YOUR LETTERS (courtesy of Californians for the Arts)

  • Start and end with a brief "thank you."
  • Letters should be brief and to the point with a very clear ask. Hit your top line talking points (arts are the first to close, last to re-open, etc.) and make a clear and uniform ask across all the letters. The ask we want is the state to issue reopening guidelines for the performing arts and live events sector.
  • Letters should contain specific stories of detrimental impact on your organization that are personal and district-specific (ie: when did you close, what has happened to your finances, frustrations trying to find ways to reopen, etc).
  • Letters should avoid finger pointing and negativity.
  • Make sure the letter contains specific asks. We want guidelines for:
    • Live performance, outdoors, limited audience capacity, not a permanent and fixed facility (consideration, for example, of parks with attendees bringing their own seating and assigned areas so guidelines are accessible for communities without outdoor venues), and for consideration at purple tier, the same as movie theaters. 
    • Live performance, indoors, no audience, at all tiers as they have already allowed for Music, Television, and Film Production, but with specific guidelines for live performances, using the Los Angeles County guidelines.
    • Live performance, indoors, limited audience, no services (bar or food) at red tier, the same as movie theaters.
  • Additional talking points to help make the case:
    • We are professional people movers and managers, we know how to keep people safe at a live event.
    • People need an outlet right now. Arts can provide mental and emotional health benefits and we can do it safely if consistent guidelines are offered for controlled events.
    • Some artists and arts organizations are already doing live events whether at a venue, a restaurant, or a hotel. It is already happening across the state in some counties, but without guidelines. It is the “Wild West” and we are deeply concerned this rogue behavior could lead to the spread of COVID 19. 
    • We can safely get people together in a live event in a controlled environment, which is much safer than the family gatherings or backyard community-type events that are happening without guidelines.
  • What we are asking for:
    • Fairness in treatment to other similar industries (movie theaters, as an example).
    • Reasonable timeline to reopen. We cannot wait until there is a vaccine and we know we can present events safely.
    • Reasonable guidelines that are feasible and practical.
    • Iterative and collaborative process.
    • Recognition that one size does not fit all (just as there are different tiers for counties)
    • With the state’s “health equity metric” and an emphasis on communities most impacted by COVID-19, arts can be a community builder and a public health behavior change model.
    • With consistent state guidelines, all counties are operating from the same playbook. This is a more equitable practice and safer for everyone.
    • Many county public health officials are looking to the state for the guidance


California Arts Advocates to Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development
Central Coast Coalition of Arts Leaders to San Luis Obispo Elected and Public Health Officials

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