New Sarasota COVID-19 arts safety protocols take effect Sunday

Jay Handelman
Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Images from events presented by the first nine arts organizations who launched the #SafeArtsSarasota initiative for COVID-19 safety protocols.

Nearly three dozen Sarasota performing and visual arts organizations have now signed on to follow the same safety protocols agreed to by the initial participants in the #SafeArtsSarasota initiative.

Nine of the county’s largest organizations made the original announcement of the safety measures to have consistent requirements for patrons attending performances. The protocols take effect on Sunday.

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The measures require patrons 12 and older to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of a performance for a PCR test or within 24 hours for an antigen or rapid test.

Photo IDs will be required and test results may be electronic or paper copies.

To avoid the testing measures, patrons may show proof they have been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days prior to a performance or entry.

All patrons age 6 and older also must wear masks at all times inside the buildings.

Each organization agreeing to the procedures may use different methods to check patrons as they enter their venues.

The protocols were initially announced Sept. 13 by Asolo Repertory Theatre, the Circus Arts Conservatory, Florida Studio Theatre, Hermitage Artist Retreat, The Sarasota Ballet, Sarasota Opera, Sarasota Orchestra, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, and the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe

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In a group statement, the organizations said they have “faced unprecedented challenges in this pandemic. Our sector has been unable to operate normally since March 2020. Since the arts community is a major economic driver for the Suncoast, our organizations are working collaboratively to ensure that our patrons can continue to safely experience the joy of live performances, and we can keep our artists and our staff employed. Our economic and creative vitality depends on providing the safest possible environment for everyone.”

Since then, more than 20 other organizations have agreed to follow the same procedures. Some of them, including Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota, Key Chorale, Choral Artists of Sarasota, the Jazz Club of Sarasota and Sarasota Contemporary Dance use performance spaces operated by the original group of nine.

Other organizations that have signed on include Arts Advocates, Art Center Sarasota, the Chamber Orchestra of Sarasota, CreArte Latino cultural center, Musica Sacra, the Players Centre for Performing Arts, The Pops, Ring Sarasota, Ringling College of Art & Design, the Ringling College Library Association Town Hall lecture series, The Ringling, Sarasota Concert Association, SaraSolo Festival, SPAACES Foundation Gallery, Strings Con Brio, Urbanite Theatre and WSLR and Fogartyville.

In a statement Urbanite Theatre leaders said by following the same standards, “together these institutions will preserve the health and safety of one of the largest employment sectors in Sarasota.”

The organizations have said they will be revising the protocols as the pandemic continues.

Organizations also are following union requirements in terms of testing and vaccinations for performers, backstage personnel and staff.

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