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Performing arts leaders ask to be included in COVID-19 reopening plans 

Local performing arts leaders advocate for inclusion in COVID-19 rules, reopening plans

While the California Department of Health’s Blueprint for COVID-19 restrictions and recovery has specific breakdowns for a wide range of industries, the performing arts have been left out. Photo from Pixabay.

–The Central Coast Coalition of Arts Leaders (C3OAL) has reached out to state and county health departments to address the exclusion of the performing arts industry from COVID-19 guidelines and reopening plans.

Thirty-six leaders from the coalition, representing performing arts groups across the Central Coast, have signed a letter urging elected leaders and health department officials to prioritize the performing arts, an industry that has been especially hard-hit by COVID-19 closures and social-distancing mandates.

“It’s not like you can order Beethoven’s 7th for curbside pickup,” said Anna James Miller, Executive Director of the San Luis Obispo Symphony and co-founder of the Coalition. “The performing arts industry needs special attention, right now, if we are going to come through this crisis intact.”

The performing arts sector is a complex ecosystem of venues, performers, artists, and technicians which has a huge impact on the local economy. Research indicates that the negative economic impact of COVID-19 on the arts sector could be $13.9 billion nationwide. In SLO County, the arts industry generates $30 million annually. And yet while the California Department of Health’s Blueprint for COVID-19 restrictions and recovery has specific breakdowns for a wide range of industries, the performing arts have been left out.

Because no clear guidelines for arts groups and venues exist in the current plan, it’s difficult to effectively adapt to safe operations during COVID-19. Many local groups have found that when they reach out to state or county officials for help, they are given contradictory answers. “We are all asking similar questions, but the answers seem to depend on who you speak to,” says Miller. “Local officials are left to their own devices to interpret the rules for the performing arts, while other industries have very clear guidelines.”

This means that some venues or performers have been given the go-ahead to hold events, while others have been denied. This has made it difficult for many groups in the Coalition to create socially-distanced events, which can take months of planning and are necessary to bring in revenue and help close funding gaps.

SLO Symphony says it has made considerable efforts to bring a modified season to its patrons through drive-in and virtual concerts, but without clear guidelines, producing the concerts has been far from easy. “The health and safety of our musicians has been our top priority since day one,” says Miller. “Since the crisis began, we have invested weeks at a time into creating plan after plan, only to be told later on that what we’re doing won’t be allowed – without any clear reasons why.”

The quest for better guidelines is part of what inspired Miller to connect with other local groups and form the coalition. “There’s strength in numbers,” she says. “The performing arts industry has always been a force for good on the Central Coast. By coming together, we hope to encourage state and local leadership to include us in the conversation.”

The letter from the coalition notes the discrepancies between the robust guidelines for similar industries and oversight for the performing arts. “There are currently no official plans in place to reopen performing arts venues, allow live theatre or concerts for small groups (outdoors or indoors) or even to allow performing artists to gather in small groups for recordings, in any of the mandated stages listed for safe reopening… We urge you at this time to [include] performing arts venues and organizations in staged reopening plans and in other industry guidelines referencing casinos, movie theaters and similar businesses.”

The letter also emphasized the willingness of signing organizations to adapt performances to outdoor venues, pre-recorded events, drive-ins, and other socially-distanced options – if guidelines are put in place to support these changes.

The Central Coast Coalition of Arts Leaders says it hopes that this letter will rally much-needed support from state and local officials.

Members of the Coalition include leaders of the following organizations:

  • Avila Beach Golf Resort
  • Ballet Theatre of SLO
  • Cal Poly Arts
  • Cal Poly Music Dept.
  • Canzona Women’s Ensemble
  • Central Coast Youth Chorus
  • Civic Ballet of SLO
  • Clark Center
  • Cuesta Concord Chorus
  • Festival Mozaic
  • Foundation for the Performing Arts Center
  • Fremont Theatre
  • Harold Miossi Cultural and Performing Arts Center at Cuesta College
  • Harold Miossi Gallery at Cuesta College
  • Movement Arts Collective
  • Opera San Luis Obispo
  • Orchestra Novo
  • Performing Arts Center, San Luis Obispo
  • San Luis Obispo Chamber Orchestra
  • San Luis Obispo Master Chorale
  • San Luis Obispo Symphony
  • SLO Film Festival
  • SLO Museum of Art
  • SLO Repertory Theatre
  • Symphony of the Vines
  • Vina Robles Amphitheatre
  • Vocal Arts Ensemble

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About the author: News Staff

News staff of the A-Town Daily News wrote and edited this article from local contributors and press releases. Scott Brennan is the publisher of this newspaper and founder of Access Publishing. Connect with him on , Twitter, LinkedIn, or follow his blog. He can be reached at

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