Setting the stage

Chico Arts Patron Survey to help organizations plan for reopening

The stage at Chico State’s Laxson Auditiorium likely won’t be prepped for another concert in front of a live audience until 2021. (photo by Lyle Lovett, courtesy of Chico Performances)

As California moves further into stage 3 of the Resilience Roadmap for reopening businesses closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic, workplaces in the arts and entertainment sector are now being included in the conversation. Starting June 12, movie theaters, museums and galleries will be allowed to reopen, with limitations on gathering size.

In anticipation of the return of local cultural institutions—those in stage 3 as well the bigger venues that will have to wait until stage 4—Chico State’s Chico Performances has drafted a survey to take the temperature of showgoers. Several local theaters and galleries are participating in the Chico Arts Patron Survey, with questions including: “When would you anticipate beginning to attend live concerts and performances with audience capacities under 100 persons?” and “What virtual and online ways would you like to experience and engage with the arts and artists?”

The survey’s participants comprise a range of venue types—from fixed-seat theaters like Laxson and the Blue Room to the potentially adaptable open floor plans of galleries and museums.

The guidelines for reopening set by the state and county for sanitation and social distancing are one thing, but even with required measures in place and a green light to open, it’s unclear how the public will respond. Stephen Cummins, the director of University Public Engagement and the booker for the shows presented by Chico Performances at Laxson Auditorium said that the survey’s input from patrons will help guide when and how they reopen.

“Our venue [might be] ready to come back,” he said, “but are our patrons ready to come back?”

Many performing arts organizations have already written off 2020. Even Chico Performances has canceled most of its fall events, Cummins said, while offering artists the opportunity to reschedule for the following fall. “We’ve also been looking at what kind of virtual programming we can do,” he added.

Whatever form the arts take in the coming months (years?) will be determined by audience response as much as anything. Take the survey by June 14 and add your voice.

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