Scottsdale Arts has announced new guidelines for the Center for the Performing Arts, Museum of Contemporary Art, and its employees.
For the Center for the Performing Arts, patrons will be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the performance or proof that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
As for the Museum of Contemporary Art, the museum has loosened its mask policy to where masks are highly recommended but no longer required for guests.
Scottsdale Arts is also requiring all its employees to be vaccinated or to take weekly tests and continue wearing masks.
“We know it's an inconvenience, but we feel that it’s a small price to pay for us to be able to sit together again and be able to enjoy the arts,” said Scottsdale Arts President and CEO Gerd Wuestemann. “The arts play a real role in us coming back together as people coming out of a crisis like we just all lived through.”
Even though the policies went into effect on Oct. 1, this was something that had been in the works for three months.
“We’ve been working on this for the past three months because we were concerned about the rise of the Delta variant and what it meant for venue operators across the country,” said Wuestemann.
The announcement came after weeks of discussions with some of the nation’s leaders in entertainment about how to keep artists and event staff as safe as possible.
“In the last few weeks there was an increased set of discussions across the country led by some of the major presenters and agencies who all made some powerful statements regarding how to keep artists safe,” Wuestemann said. “Based on that, we carefully evaluated where we stood and we also talked to our partners at the city to find a good middle ground that allowed us to stay open, keep people safe, keep our artists safe and avoid cancellations.”
The last thing we wanted to do was to close down or cancel shows, so we wanted to make sure that we found a path forward,” he added.
With these new policies in place, Wuestemann is excited to be able to host shows inside the Center for the Performing Arts at full capacity.
“There are some real positive tradeoffs in all of this,” he said. “We can operate at 100 percent capacity, but we still recommend that people distance, when possible, but it is no longer a requirement.”
In addition to recommending that patrons keep themselves distanced, Wuestemann still encourages guests to mask up in all possible settings.
“We know there is not one perfect silver bullet that keeps everybody safe,” he said. “What gives us a high degree of safety is the requirement of negative COVID-19 tests or proof of vaccination combined with recommending mask wearing and the other efforts we’ve made over the last year.”
Wuestemann reported that all faucets and doors have been changed to touchless, he had top of the line air filters installed and Scottsdale Art still has two barrels of hand sanitizer on hand.
“We want to make sure that we make these experiences available to everybody and invite people to come and enjoy these amazing shows,” he said. “But we also have an obligation to keep each other safe.”
Another way Wuestemann is keeping employees safe is by asking them to either become fully vaccinated or receive weekly tests and remain masked.
“This gives us a lot of internal safety and also makes sure that when we interact with artists that we can have the safest protocol possible,” he said.
The new guidelines were announced nearly two weeks prior to going into effect and were met with mixed reactions.
“When we published the new policy, we had about 100 responses that were half positive and half negative,” said Wuestemann. “We felt pretty good about the ratio. We understand that this is not for everybody, but it is a measure we need to take and that we feel good about.”
With the policy in effect, Wuestemann does foresee some growing pains during its initial rollout.
“The challenges that I foresee are that we are asking everybody to allow an extra five to 10 minutes to arrive here especially as we are implementing these policies because nothing goes without a hitch when you do something new,” he said.
He is optimistic, however, that his staff will be able to handle the implementation of these new policies.
“We’ll have specifically trained staff checking those requirements as people arrive, we’re implementing a couple of technology systems to do a pre-check hopefully along with the initial ticket purchase.” Wuestemann said. “We’re going to try to do whatever we can to minimize any kind of added inconvenience as people arrive.”
The system to pre-check vaccinated patrons will be the usage of an app called VaxYes, which keeps guests’ information private and ensures a hassle free and quicker check in process.
For those who cannot get the app to work or must show a negative COVID-19 test, they will have to wait in line at one of the verification tables, which will be set up two and a half hours prior to each event at the Center for the Performing Arts.
For those who wish not to comply with the new policies, Wuestemann explained that he is happy to refund those guests.
“I think it’s up to all of us to navigate this crisis and to do our part,” he said. “Uniting us through these amazing and uplifting experiences is really important. It helps us recover and come back together as people.”
Even with these potential challenges, nothing can overshadow the excitement Wuestemann has about live entertainment returning to the Center for the Performing Arts.
“We are ecstatic that we can welcome them back into the safest possible environment and we are doing everything to keep them as safe as possible but allow them to share their gift with us once again,” said Wuestemann. “I’ve been in the arts my whole life and I have found over the years that when we gather around a music performance, a play, a dance performance or in a gallery looking at a piece together, I often have this occurrence that I seem to bond with people that I’ve never met before in my life.”