Rahm Emanuel, former mayor of Chicago and former Chief of Staff for the Obama White House, famously said, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste.” He went on to explain “And what I mean by that is it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”
Well, the world is facing a crisis the full impact of which is unkownable at this time. What we do know is that things are shutting down, slowing down, contracting in response to this early stage of the Covid-19 pandemic.
And, like every other segment of society, the nonprofit arts industry is suffering from the demand for social distancing that we hope can slow the spread of the virus. Performances are being cancelled, venues shuttered, museums and galleries closed.
Once we we have adjusted to the fact that business as usual is not possible for the time being (and that will, of course, take a good deal of adjusting), once we’ve gotten a ways through grieving for the losses that the circumstances have created, maybe it can be time to consider what to do until we can get back to the business of presenting arts experiences.
How many times about how many things–personally and professionally–have you said there’s no time for that? Exercise, menu development, developing a diet plan on the personal side; strategic or operational planning, restructuring, or simply imagining future possibilities on the organizational side.
With my lens as an advocate for community engagement, I think of the many (many, many) people who have told me they just don’t have time to devote to making connections with their communities. There are too many other tasks to do. While I always try to explain that that is a misunderstanding of what is actually required (especially at the beginning) and of the existential need to do so regardless of “lack of time,” it can be for many a “show stopper” with respect to community engagement.
So, maybe thinking about and acting on community engagement can be one of the things you can constructively do with the time that is going to be available. The process that ArtsEngaged teaches for effective community engagement talks about Preparing, Planning, and Partnering, with the Partnering happening only after the first two have been worked through. Preparing and Planning can be done internally and virtually. It’s worth considering.
Even if community engagement is not where you choose to invest your new-found time, consider being intentional about working on something that you’ve never had time to do before. It may be one way to help maintain sanity in the devastating circumstances we are facing.