In Response To COVID-19
The doors of Norfolk Arts Center were closed to the public from March 13 – June 10, 2020. During this time all planned programs were cancelled. Staff immediately took to the drawing board, reconfiguring plans to meet strict safety guidelines, scrapping traditional ideas of programming, and rebuilding the ways in which we reach and serve our community. On day one of the global pandemic, Executive Director, Denice Hansen walked into her office and wrote the phase “Adapt and Adjust – YOU CAN!” on her office white board, and that has been the guiding moto for the organization ever since.
Staff took to a (virtual) huddle and began brainstorming ways to adapt ourselves to this new normal. It quickly became apparent that our existing social media platforms and website were going to play a key part in digital programming. We transitioned all of our programming including classes, exhibits and events to free virtual platforms and delivered educational arts materials to anyone in need at no cost. On June 11, 2020 we were again able to welcome the public back into our facility. We eased into in-person programing by holding events outside or with very limited numbers. First Friday Open Mic night was held in the garden, along with several classes. Those workshops held in the classroom had less than 10 people all spaced out with their own personal table and supplies. During the gallery reception we encouraged the public to social distance and wear masks and limited entry to no more than 25% of our capacity.
With fall came the return of students to school, along with rising case numbers in our area. Wanting to be extremely cautious and play a supporting role for the health and safety of our community, the NAC again shifted to online classes and events. Our doors remained open with limited hours and private viewing available. Though we are not encouraging people to gather, we also understand the importance of mental health and the knowledge that viewing art can lower stress levels, refocus the mind, and promote creative thinking.
NAC’s digital programs consist of an online slideshow of the gallery exhibits, and the continuation of our free weekly virtual class series posted to our website and social media. We are also continuing to deliver free art supplies to anyone who requests them. Our in-person school performances utilize the same professional touring companies as before, but are streamed directly to students either at home or in their classrooms. First Friday Open Mic has gone back to online streaming as well. The 5th Grade Passport to Art program mails the monthly activities and projects directly to students throughout Northeast Nebraska at no cost. We are constantly adapting our current methods, adjusting to improve both the quality and the reach, and researching what others around the country are doing to uplift spirits and provide enrichment through the arts.
At the time of writing this, the global pandemic continues to be an existing force. The Norfolk Arts Center Board of Directors and staff continue to monitor the situation and develop plans to safely progress the arts.