FIELD NOTES | Moving Forward, Together

Lisa Funderburke Hoffman
April 3, 2020

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” — James Baldwin

Dear AAC Network,

Residencies are just beginning to understand the impact of session postponements, event cancelations, new convening guidelines, and reduced on-site staff due to the dynamic and evolving nature of COVID-19. While there continues to be tumult and uncertainty, we affirm that we are better together.

Now is the time to talk to other residencies and learn from those who are further along in this experience, such as our colleagues in China, Italy, and Seattle. They might be able to share learnings from their successes and failures. Talk to your stakeholders too, respecting that they are also living in uncertain times, managing multiple and sometimes competing priorities.

Leaders must lead with consideration of the larger community in which they exist, moving away from a narrow focus on their own roles, teams, and program stature. Pre-COVID-19 expectations, goals, strategies, and metrics should be modified to reflect where your program is today in the context of a global pandemic. This could mean a dramatic reorganization of how you work. This is not the time to ask, “How do we continue business as usual?” This is the moment to think deeply about innovating without doing harm.

Ask yourself:

  • Are our response, recovery, and replanning actions fair, just, and compassionate toward everyone?

  • Are we challenging our biases and assumptions when listening to public health experts and warnings?

  • Are we communicating with intention, clarity, and care about what we know and don’t know?

  • Are we making decisions and taking action across all domains of our work (i.e. Identity, Program, Stewardship, Fund Development, and Operations)?

  • Whose needs are we prioritizing? 

  • Are we ignoring how our good intentions may be contributing to the spread of the virus? Are we putting ourselves or others in its path?

How we work together and support artists has shifted and it is important to continue centering equity in our work. Carl Atiya Swanson of Springboard for the Arts reminded participants in our last #ResidenciesConnect session to avoid enabling white supremacist work cultures remotely. Authors Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun wrote an important piece detailing the characteristics of White Supremacy Culture in the workplace and they are clear that these constructs adversely impact both people of color and white people.

Lauren Tuzzolino of the National Endowment for the Arts reminds us in our planning for accessibility that there is nothing for us without us. I encourage you to involve your staff in decision making and prioritize their health and wellbeing as you strategize on their behalf.

Lastly, we encourage you to carefully examine the stimulus package and the details of the CARES Act (see below). There are new resources available to help with funding as you begin to think about new strategies to engage artists.


Lisa Funderburke Hoffman
Executive Director