Arts center prepares for cautious reopening The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

Arts center prepares for cautious reopening

Arts center prepares for cautious reopening
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TRIBUNE NEWS STAFF

The Chandler Center for the Arts is making a slow effort to reopen after losing thousands of dollars because of the pandemic-related shutdowns.

In less than a week after the center installed hand-sanitizing stations in March, performers began cancelling their national tours and the venues were starting to shut down operations.

“We were preparing for Blues guitarist Buddy Guy’s arrival from California when it became clear that the threat from coronavirus was going to stop that show and every other scheduled event at the Center for the next several weeks, at least,” said CCA General Manager Michelle Mac Lennan.

“There was a cascading series of cancellations that had to be negotiated and communicated to ticket buyers. The environment was tense for all of us. But as the seriousness of the pandemic situation became clear we accepted that closing the Center was the only option for the safety of our patrons, staff, volunteers and the performers, too.”

Mac Lennan said some customers were upset at first and she understood their frustration.

She also worried about the impact on her staff, and from a business manager perspective she worried about the financial impact on the Center.

However, as a supporter of the performing arts, the hardest part for her was imagining the loss that show cancellations would have on the artists and all the individuals and businesses that depend on those tours.

“You know, these tours have a lot of moving parts, they are put together far in advance and in most cases they aren’t big money-making propositions. Almost overnight everything shut down. It was a shock, and the ripple effects will be felt for years to come,” Mac Lennan said.

Estimates put the national loss to performing arts venues and organizations at more than $5 billion.

Chandler Center for the Arts will reopen and “is positioned well to weather the current crisis,” a city spokesman said

When the Center plans to reopen later this summer, social distance seating will reduce capacity from approximately 1,500 to 450 people.

Ticket prices will decrease on average, according to Mac Lennan, but the types and sizes of shows that will resume touring has changed.

“We are in uncharted territory right now and all venues in the Valley are learning how to navigate through a changed business landscape,” Mac Lennan said, adding:

“So far, as we negotiated our 2020-21 season it has been a collaborative process between our venue, artists and their agents. We are happy to see that some artists are agreeing to consider performing two shows on the same day instead of one if ticket sales warrant it, which would help us make up for lost revenue.”

Once announced, the official performance schedule for 2020-21 will reflect a diverse collection of performers and entertainment styles.

“There will be several internationally known stars, exciting emerging artists and some returning fan favorites coming to Chandler,” a spokesman said, adding it will include local entertainers.

“It’s a great time to invest in the local entertainment economy because the community needs it,” added Mac Lennan.

More performances will be added during the season, including several free shows, some of which may be held outdoors.

In addition to altered seating plans that emphasize social distancing, protective masks will be worn by all ushers and staff. Plastic shielding is in place at the concession stand, which will institute a no-touch service and payment system.

Also, printed programs are being replaced with electronic versions viewable on a cell phone.

Patrons will likely be required to wear masks.

Closure enabled the center staff to spend time on “some really deep mechanical maintenance issues and aesthetics, like installing new flooring, adding fresh paint, refurbishing the gallery space and constructing a new box office,” Mac Lennan said.

Information: chandlercenter.org or 480-782-2680. 

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