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A screenshot of an OAC Zoom web meeting. Image shows Ohio Arts Council staff members in small rectangles on one screen.

A New Normal

Each morning, the first few seconds upon waking, I listen to the silence of the room, and then I remember the chaotic times we are experiencing. What will the numbers be today? How many more artists will have cancelled contracts? Are there more performances to postpone? So many questions.
While it’s just a short walk down the hall to my teleworking office (saving two hours of travel time each day), the content of my day isn’t too much different than a normal day in the office. I think about my schedule and tasks: checking in with staff, responding to emails and phone calls, strategizing about budget issues, talking with our board chair and members, watching the governor’s presser, and the list goes on—nearly business as usual.
Each press conference brings data, advice, recommendations, and even orders that collectively impact our lives on a scale that we haven’t seen in our lifetime. Coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic, social distancing, physical distancing, PPE, scarcity of ventilators, hospital rooms, food, and even toilet paper—all of these things are realities, and they are adding to our collective uncertainty, especially the newer words and terms we’d never contemplated before.
Under the leadership of Governor Mike DeWine and Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted, our elected officials are making tough and important decisions about public health and the capacity of our medical professionals and facilities. Trust me when I tell you that they are thinking about the arts sector, too. They recognize the arts as a convener of people, they understand that arts venues are economic drivers, and they realize that more than 290,000 Ohioans work in or get support from the creative sector. They also understand that our artists and arts contractors are among the most vulnerable, and the governor and lieutenant governor have worked with the federal government to make unemployment benefits available for self-employed individuals. This largely includes artists—this is so very important, and we thank them for these efforts.
We learned on Friday that the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) was included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by Congress and signed into law. The NEA’s award, $75 million, must certainly be in recognition of the arts’ $877 billion contribution to the U.S. economy and the  5.1 million American jobs in the arts. Of this $75 million, $45 million will be made in direct grants by the NEA to arts organizations throughout the country. The other $30 million will be distributed to state arts agencies, including the Ohio Arts Council. We do not know the details yet on this funding for the OAC. The NEA team is working on the details at the writing of this article. We thank our members of Congress and the president for their support of the arts.
News outlets at the local, state, and national levels are 24-hours-a-day, fast-lane drivers of information—we can hardly take our eyes and ears away from updates and new information. Today I was reminded that the 24/7 news cycle is for our convenience, not for 24/7 consumption. Good advice.
As we move through the coming months, I know one thing for sure: We will come out on the other side of COVID-19 stronger than ever as arts leaders, arts providers, and artists.
Here at the Ohio Arts Council we’ve been keeping you updated the very best we can and hope that the information and resources have been, and continue to be, helpful. If you haven’t been following along, check out our collection of resources here. Our team is updating the site daily, and sometimes hourly.
In closing, a personal story: Yesterday my husband and I had a ZOOM call with our son Josh and his family—we typically have Sunday dinner together every week, so “doing the ZOOM” was the next best thing. During the call, my grandboy asked me if I would be able to come to his baseball games this spring. I immediately said, “Yes, well of course, I’ll be at your game.” And my grandgirl said, “Well, if there are games. And Grammy, you are in that danger zone—you know, you’re older, and it might not be safe for you to be in a crowd of people.”
Bam … right there it was again … life as we know it, our new normal. Let’s hope it’s the “old” normal soon.

Until next time,
Donna Collins signature
Donna S. Collins
Executive Director

Featured image: A screenshot of an Ohio Arts Council virtual staff meeting on Zoom. The OAC, like many teams and staffs around the country, has turned to digital tools like video conferencing to check in and collaborate while physically distanced. Photo courtesy of Donna S. Collins.

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