The Arts and Reopening. Dr. Anthony Fauci transcript and video, plus full NEA Webinar

“Art in all its forms is vital to the health and well-being of us as individuals and as communities,” Dr. Anthony Fauci concludes his remarks in the March 23rd National Endowment for the Arts webinar entitled “The Art of Reopening: A Virtual Conversation on Reengaging Arts Audiences in Physical Spaces.” Watch two videos below: First Dr. Fauci’s address, in which he details the “shocking unemployment rates among artists,” praises the ingenuity of arts organizations, warns against declaring victory against Covid-19 prematurely,  and predicts (“based on current projections”) a reopening of Broadway “sometime in the fall.”

Below his video and transcript is the full hour-long video, which features a panel, moderated by the NEA’s Sunil Iyengar, of three of the organizations featured as case studies in the NEA’s January 2021 report, The Art of Reopening: Scott Altman, president & CEO, Cincinnati Ballet, Cincinnati, Ohio; Chloe Cook, executive director, Sidewalk Film Center & Cinema, Birmingham, Alabama; Rebecca Read Medrano, co-founder and executive director, GALA Hispanic Theatre, Washington, DC.

You’ll hear, for example, how Medrano tested positive for Covid two days after her city was shut down, but, although “we are low-tech people,” GALA plunged ahead onstage (even installing a new HVAC [heating, ventilation, and air conditioning] system) and ventured online. “There’s a real scarcity of culturally relevant Spanish language material online,” Medrano explains. “It’s incredible given this country is the second largest Spanish speaking country in the world after Mexico. So we thought it was really necessary to engage on all levels, to not disappear…”

Warm greetings to you all. My name is Tony Fauci and I’m the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical advisor for Covid-19 to President Joe Biden. I am delighted to welcome cultural leaders from across the country to this virtual event, the Art of Reopening, hosted by the National Endowment of the Arts

I commend the NEA for its thoughtful approach to imagining how to reopen art spaces safely as we emerge from the darkest days of the Covid-19 pandemic.

As you have lived and know well,  the past year has been extremely difficult for the arts community. Covid-19 forced the shutdown of  so-called non-essential businesses including visual and performing srts venues which had a devastating effect. Consider the shocking unemployment rates among artists: Nearly 50 percent of actors in almost 22 percent of musicians were unemployed in the last quarter of 2020 as compared with nearly seven percent of people nationally during the same period.

 So I am genuinely hearten, though it comes as no surprise, to see how your famous creativity is not limited to producing art.

 As your guide to “the art of the opening” shows, your ingenuity also extends to how arts organizations are adapting, continuing to operate, and inventing new ways to engage your audience.

We are all tired of the constraints imposed on us by this pandemic and I often get asked when can we go back to a Broadway show, see a movie at a theater or visit a museum. I too cannot wait to get back to these activities. Some places such as New York State will soon allow arts and entertainment centers to reopen in a limited way While this is welcome news, we must not declare victory prematurely. Our most important task as a nation right now is to reduce the level of circulating virus to a very low level, much less than the tens of thousands of cases we currently are seeing each day.

And so get vaccinated when you are eligible, continue to wear a mask and socially distance when out in public, pay attention to the evolving public health guidance issued by the CDC, and together we will continue down the path we are on to some sort of normality.

 We are incredibly fortunate that the United States now has three extraordinarily safe and efficacious Covid-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use. And both our vaccine supply and our rate of vaccination are accelerating steadily.

 Like a multi-act play, however, pandemics are dynamic events. And in this Covid-19 pandemic, the behavior of the coronavirus as well as the people affected by it are the star players in how things will ultimately turn out. 

The next few months will provide a critical opportunity for us to get ahead of the virus and the variance it is spawning. If enough people get vaccinated, and if we are careful in reopening and resuming activities, based on current projections I believe we are likely to see a return to more fully opened movie and Broadway theaters sometime in the fall. This is no guarantee and at least initially we may still need to wear masks. If we continue to vaccinate as many people as we can as quickly as possible however I believe we will achieve a broad umbrella of protection, somewhere between 70 to 80 percent of people vaccinated by late summer to early fall. Those who are vaccinated will not only protect themselves but also will serve as a dead-end to virus spread, protecting the minority remaining who either cannot or have not been vaccinated. 

So thank you for your commitment to safely maintaining reinventing and advancing the Arts during such a difficult time. Art in all its forms is vital to the health and well-being of us as individuals and as communities…

Author: New York Theaterh

Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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