FIELD SURVEY | Mapping a Path to Reopening

ACA Staff
July 7, 2020

The Alliance of Artists Communities (AAC) is gathering information from residency programs to help all stakeholders understand the impact of Covid-19 related closures. This month, as part of our #ResidenciesConnect registration process, we asked residencies to share if and when they plan to reopen and how they’re making decisions.

More than a list of steps, we are interested in the questions raised by the process of reopening.  How are residencies ensuring the safety of staff and artists? Does the reopening process support or undermine  equitable practice? Who gets to make decisions and on whose behalf? Over sixty programs shared their plans with us; the initial results are presented below. You can find updated resources in our Covid-19 Arts Preparedness + Response Resource List.

Are residencies currently running?

By early spring of 2020, most residencies had halted all programming. In our April field snapshot, 82% of programs had cancelled residency programming for May and 75% had cancelled for June. 

As local governments ease restrictions, even as Covid-19 cases are surging in many parts of the world, some residencies have reopened their doors while others have called off programming for the remainder of the year. While no residency has reported permanent closure as a result of Covid-19, 35% of respondents said their entire organization was temporarily closed while 41% said their residency program only was not in operation.

CURRENT STATUS: What is the current status of your program/organization?

status of residency running chart

Details from the graph above: Out of 66 responses: 35% of organizations are temporarily closed, 41% of residency programs are not running, 17% of residency programs are running and hosting artists onsite. and 7% of residency programs are running virtually. 10% of organizations reported permanent closure. 

What do staffing and artist cohorts structures look like?

For the residency programs that are already up and running, we analyzed changes in staffing and artist cohort structure. Did furloughs and layoffs mean operating at full capacity with fewer staff? Or was the size of the artist cohort reduced to increase opportunities for social distancing? 

Among organizations that had restarted their program, at the end of June 17% of respondents were hosting artists onsite while 7% were running their program virtually. The majority of programs hosting artists onsite (53%) reported inviting a smaller cohort of artists. Several programs have mentioned reshaping their programs.As one performing arts center noted, "We will reopen with one resident at a time, or a duo, or family who has already been quarantined together."

ARTIST COHORTS: If your residency is currently running onsite, how many artists are in residence?

cohort chart

Details from the graph above: Out of 15 responses: 47% of residency programs with artists onsite are hosting the full cohort of aritsts, 53% of residency programs with artists onsite are hosting smaller cohorts of artists.

STAFFING + ARTIST COHORT: If your residency is currently running onsite, what is your staffing and aritst cohort structure?

staffing cohort graph

Details from the graph above: Out of 16 responses: 20% of organizations are hosting a full cohort of artists with their full staff, 7% of residency programs are hosting a full cohort of artists with a reduced staff, 13% of residency programs are hosting a smaller cohort of artists with their full staff, and 33% are hosting a smaller cohort of artists with reduced staff.

How are residencies mapping a path to reopening?

Residencies that are currently closed report a range of potential timelines for reopening. Fall is a often-reported goal, with 38% reporting plans to restart onsite programming in September or October.  Late summer was the target for 38% of programs. Some 25% of programs reported being canceled until at least November and 18% through the end of 2020.

TIMELINE: If your program is currently not running, when do you plan to reopen?

reopening chart

Details from the graph above: Out of 55 responses, 24% are reopening July/August, 38% are reopening in September/October, 5% are reopening in November/December, 18% are cancelled through the end of 2020, and 2% are cancelled until summer 2021. 


Residencies are relying on leading health organizations for guidance. The World Health Organization, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and state health departments were frequently named as anchor resources. Two programs had a direct consultation and walk-through with their local health department; others had hired consultants specialized in risk managment. Assessing the unique needs and context of one’s program was a necessary first step in crafting a plan and sourcing relevant resources. Residencies also reported looking to restaurants and other businesses for translatable protocols, planning documents, and equipment. 

Most reopening planning processes were led by executive leadership with strong participation from staff and boards. Some respondents talked about an active process of getting artist input in reopening staging, and plans for rescheduled residencies. As M. Gabriela Muñoz, a senior coordinator at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at ASU writes, "As we seek to amplify our fellows’ work and voices it makes sense for us to include them in our decision making processes to co-develop fellowship activities that have impact on their experiences, rather than assume that we know best what their needs might be...This means that our timelines must inevitably shift to accommodate their participation in the decision making process, but any institutional discomfort we might feel in the timing is worth it as we ensure that artists represent their own views, values and desires."

Practitioners noted that it was important to think about planning across various lines. As one organization explained, "We split up our planning process across: Residency Guidelines and Safety Requirements; Cleaning and Disinfecting Protocols; Public and Private Event Protocols; Safety and Emergency Protocols; What to Expect in our Community; and Waivers and Visitor Logs." Another program organized working groups by: "Response (immediate situation and future scenarios); Restart (what is needed, staffing, regulations to ramp up); and Relaunch (including reinventing the business and how we operationalize a new structure going forward)." 

Respondents were asked to share resources that had guided their process. Find a full listing on our Covid-19 Arts Preparedness + Response Resource List.

Take the Survey

Help us reflect an accurate picture of the COVID-19 impact on residency programming to funders, elected officials, and other stakeholders by participating in this five-minute survey.