Leadership / 06.16.20
Some Venues That Have Gone Dark Are Shining Brighter Than Ever, Part II
The arts and sports have been catalysts of social change and community outreach for decades. But with so many venues having gone dark in this era of coronavirus, the songs and cries of justice have had to emanate from the streets and not the stages and stadiums of yore.
But that doesn't mean these places are being left out of history altogether. Far from it. In May, for example, Compassion London moved its coronavirus emergency response operation to Wembley Stadium in London where it has been using its catering facilities. The charity was established to provide meals to those in need during the COVID-19 crisis and is made up of a group of professional chefs, food enthusiasts and volunteers. In a post on the Football Association's (FA's) website, Wembley's Head of Culinary Henry Lomas discusses how he received a call from the FA asking if he would be interested in helping run its kitchen.
“The food that arrives at the back door is predominantly made up of donations from various suppliers, and my job is to have a look at it when it arrives and try to assemble it into some sort of menu,” Lomas says. “We made the menus simple and the professional guys really put the food together. And then everybody else is involved in packing, labeling and distribution.”
A refrigerated wagon collects the finished food each morning and distributes it around the city to disadvantaged households and various care homes. Lomas estimates that over 150,000 meals will have been made by the time Compassion London has moved out of the stadium.
Also, in England, Theatre Manager Alice Gayk has worked with the Oxford Food Bank to ensure none of New Theatre Oxford's supply stock — toilet paper, snacks, disinfectant cleaner, etc. — goes to waste during these trying times. Stateside, the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts in Pittsburgh's Cultural District has set out tables from its own storage for a restaurant next door. As a result, the eatery can accommodate even more diners while still adhering to the city and state's social distancing orders.
In addition to dealing with the pandemic, many cities are seeing great protests and demonstrations in the wake of the May 25 police-involved killing of George Floyd, an African American man, in Minneapolis. Philadelphia has been the site of some of the most dramatic marches. On June 6, the Kimmel Cultural Campus learned that several members of its extended family — board members, donors, staff — were involved in the organization of a social justice march in the city led by African American fraternities and sororities. The march gathered at nearby City Hall, so the Kimmel decided to show support by making its building available for rest, recovery and restrooms from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Ed Cambron, Kimmel Cultural Campus Executive Vice President and COO, says, “We also offered bottled water that was generously donated by our partners at Garces Events and Innovative Catering Concepts. The Kimmel Cultural Campus is a gathering place for a variety of performances and events that cater to diverse audiences. And, although our doors have been closed since March 16, we were happy to be able to continue to serve the community in this capacity.”
He says, “Similarly, we opened our doors as a polling place for the June primary election. Due to our size, we were able to accommodate nine districts with polling stations that were safely social distanced. We also partnered with the American Red Cross to host a blood drive to assist hospitals treating patients during this pandemic.”
Throughout New York City, cultural institutions have been repurposing their spaces to provide places of respite for those participating in the Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality and discrimination. These venues have answered a call placed by Open Your Lobby, an initiative that was launched on June 3.
The group called on theaters to permit protestors inside their buildings to use restrooms, charge their cell phones and generally regroup. Many have been offering such needed supplies as bottled water, snacks, first aid and protective equipment. Among those participating has been Atlantic Theater's Linda Gross Theater, the IRT Theater, the New York Theater Workshop, Playwrights Horizons and The Public Theater in Manhattan. In Brooklyn, the Irondale Center has been opening its doors to anyone making their voices heard who may need water, snacks, Wi-Fi and bathrooms.
The Paramount Theatre marquee
This same spirit has been on full display in Austin, Texas, chiefly at The Paramount Theatre located just blocks from the State Capitol building. The venue recently updated its marquee to read “Black Lives Matter” to show solidarity with protestors who march by the theatre on their way to the Capitol to demand equal justice under the law.
Paramount Theatre CEO and Executive Director Jim Ritts says, “We're not just about movies. We are not just about live performance. We are in the business of reminding people how extraordinary humans can be. And, so, our marquee has become something of a communications tool that reflects who we are — our culture and our belief system — and that we recognize an important part of our community that is under siege. We send the message that we support what you are doing. Next, we're going to have a quote up from Maya Angelou that says, ‘When you know better … do better.’”
Click here to read Part I of “Some Venues That Have Gone Dark Are Shining Brighter Than Ever.”
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Tags: Venues , Diversity , Inclusion , COVID-19 , Coronavirus