Navigating Difficult Decision-Making In A Time Of Crisis

An update from Dee Boyle-Clapp, Director of Arts Extension Service

We have been closely watching the UMass response to the coronavirus (COVID-19). UMass Chancellor Kumble R. Subbaswamy has shared the decision with the community to transition campus classes online for the remainder of the semester.

See AES Emergency Resources

While we recognize this as a time of uncertainty, this moment allows for dialogue about where the intersections of public health and the arts meet. There are implications for our arts programs and how we can be leaders within our organizations, our sector, and the communities we serve. We can use this opportunity to learn how strong our systems are, how deep our support is, and tap our own creativity to show how arts organizations can provide a variety of programming virtually such as videos of prior performance events or gallery talks with images, to keep people engaged and served. For those organizations among us who serve families, can we post story-times or impromptu dance lessons to help children and adults burn off excess energy? As leaders of creative organizations and leaders in our communities, how do we navigate difficult decision-making that can have far-reaching impacts in our communities?

One of the first cancellations of many arts events as South by Southwest, (SXSW), an internationally recognized music and arts festival that brings $350 million to the city of Austin, Texas. An interesting article from City Lab delves into the decision-making process that led to a proactive response. “In earnest, a couple of weeks ago it became a greater possibility. That changed over time as more and more information was obtained,” says Austin Mayor Steven Adler.

We thrive on our interconnected circles to empower the work that we are so passionate about.

We know these decisions are hard to make. Our economies are dependent upon arts programming as well as arts organizations that are built upon partnerships of funding support and community connections. We thrive on our interconnected circles to empower the work that we are so passionate about. We also have an opportunity to lead the way, share reliable information, and get good resources into the hands of artists and our communities.

For example, one of those resources available is the NYFA Rauschenberg Emergency Grant for artists.


Artists and arts managers are joining an online group for discussions. One of those groups, The Fortunate Artist Project Group founder poet and former director of Innovation in American Government at Harvard University, Marc Zegans posted,” I've been thinking about what it would mean for people in the creative life to fortuitously adapt to the challenges now being presented by life with the coronavirus, and how artists of goodwill can foster a sense of hope, possibility, and vitality for their audiences, as we find new ways to gather, share and express our creativity,” the group’s conversation continues about ways to overcome the obstacles of closing events and consider innovative alternatives.

At the Arts Extension Service, we are fortunate to have these virtual systems prepared so that we can continue educating our current and future arts leaders online.

A number of years ago, it would have been near impossible for us to continue communicating virtually. Now we have many tools in place that allow us to connect online through social media, email, video conferencing, and more. At the Arts Extension Service, we are fortunate to have these virtual systems prepared so that we can continue educating our current and future arts leaders online. This is a time for us to come together with care and consideration of the welfare of our communities. It is also a time for us to join in sharing creative solutions and resources to make for better decisions and prepare for the future of successful arts programming.

Let us know how you have approached the heightened concerns about the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) and the impacts it has had on your determinations for your next steps. Connect with us on Facebook or Instagram to keep the conversation going.