Emergency Preparedness, Part 3: Community Recovery Through Arts & Culture

In November 2019, LYRASIS presented a webinar* on Community Recovery Through Arts and Culture. California Community Theatre presents excerpts and takeaways in this feature article, the third in a series dedicated to emergency, safety and risk preparation.

LYRASIS creates and sustains technologies, services and programs that are uniquely designed to help libraries, archives, museums and research organizations access and share their vital collections, data and knowledge.

How Performing Arts Organizations Can Aid a Community in Recovery

Disaster Management Cycle - Quick Overview

Mitigation--> Preparation-->Response-->Recovery--> Back to Mitigation

Each step feeds into the next, learning from a previous event, grow/learn, and prepare for the next, and so on

Recovery Portion of Disaster Management Cycle - General Information

Recovery can include financial, emotional and spiritual components.These components can overlap.

Recovery is generally a long-term process with short-term moments. Each recovery is different, as are the disasters.

Change is often inevitable after a disaster: you may change protocols, processes, or programs.

How Can Your Organization Help Your Community in Disaster/Crisis Recovery? - Ideas

How can your organization itself help others during a crisis? What practical resources do you have? Helping others includes your local community geographically, but also your greater theatre community.

  • Share Information

  • Provide Services

  • Give your community a place to do tasks related to recovery or response (rooms, spaces, restrooms, phone charger outlets, etc)

  • Offer your space for rehearsals for those who have lost theirs

  • When you are able, get back to producing work. It brings money back to the community. Share this fact. It might seem that there is little value in creating or producing work (shows, workshops, special events, education/classes) following a disaster, but historical practice shows that it provides respite and distraction, unity, and community-building opportunities

  • Provide a voice to those that don't have one. Create art centered around the very crisis you are in. Allow those impacted to share their stories through your theatre practice. Create a playwriting program to tell the stories. You can even commemorate a disaster, which may see counterintuitive or counterproductive, but it can be healing to help put loss into words and acknowledge memories while also letting go. These works of art can help us remember the part of our community's history and also help ensure that we don't make the same mistakes that caused the disaster in the first place

  • If schools are closed, can your theatre help provide educational childcare services for parents who are working?

  • When a community is in the recovery phase, can your theatre be part of the economic recovery and collaborate with programs or messaging to align with 'getting people back to restaurants, theatre, arts, etc'?

QUICK TIP: What does your website do that can help others? Can you offer to use your ticketing system to sign people up for volunteering, etc? Can your newsletter help distribute news?

Collaborating with Other Organizations in Community Recovery Can Be Beneficial and Necessary, Especially if Combining Resources is an Option

Arts groups helping a community can start organically and simply.

On another side, your theatre might benefit from local or regional arts or community foundations who are distributing funds specifically for recovery efforts.

Your recovery efforts can have big long-term impacts such as introducing new collaborations and relationships beyond the recovery experience. Your contributions to recovery could include expanding upon existing programs inside or outside your organization (be sure that you decide if you are creating a program just in response to the crisis, or if you are planning to/can continue the program in general after recovery is over?).

QUICK TIP: Watch your ego in this process. Also, make sure you truly understand what your community needs and wants. Know your organization's capacity and skills. Make sure you can see your part of the recovery process through to the end.

REMEMBER: Recovery is a long-term process. Take the time. Know your capacity and abilities - as individuals and as an organization.

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