On April 19, I joined 21 other national leaders for Readiness and Resiliency: Advancing a Collaborative and National Strategy for the Arts in Times of Emergencies, a convening of the National Endowment for the Arts, in my role as ArtsReady Director at South Arts. Leaders in the arts and culture sector, including funders and arts service organizations, other federal agencies including FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and emergency preparedness experts were in attendance. The event offered the chance to share information and perspective on the current state of emergency preparedness in the arts and cultural community, and discuss how more collaborative and comprehensive emergency strategies can be advanced.
This unprecedented convening of the NEA demonstrated the increasing recognition that emergency planning is of critical importance to our field. Our first work in this area, in 2006, was in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. These efforts, which became the ArtsReady initiative, were to increase the ability of arts organizations and artists in the South to withstand crises and continue their operations. We quickly realized this was a need across the country, and now, almost ten years later, ArtsReady offers an online readiness planning tool for arts organizations, and also provides an array of information, Alerts, resources and professional development in readiness planning. We’ve also helped to lead the work of the National Coalition for Arts’ Preparedness and Emergency Response.
Today, we need to coordinate efforts and build partnerships within and outside of the arts/culture field. Those of us who impact funding and policy need to find ways to integrate readiness planning into the way we support the field. Planning for disasters is not pleasant work, nor is it easy. However, it’s becoming a critical leadership activity. During one part of the NEA Convening, we were asked to array ourselves physically in the room according to how “ready” our constituents are, and I was alone at the front of the line. I explained how five years ago, we started asking our Regional and Literary Touring grant applicants if they had a readiness plan, yes or no. Each year since, we’ve expanded on that question, and this year, each applicant had to demonstrate that they have a plan. It didn’t matter how they developed it, and our staff spent many hours reviewing draft plans and providing assistance. This year, every applicant but one submitted their plan description – and our number of applicants increased over last year. Not each plan is complete, not every plan is comprehensive. But whereas five years ago only a handful of these organizations had any sort of plan, now 100 arts organizations have readiness planning as part of their professional practice. That is real progress. And we look forward to continuing the conversation with our national colleagues to support ALL arts organizations and artists become more prepared!
- Mollie Quinlan-Hayes; Deputy Director, South Arts; Director, ArtsReady