Vaccine mandates create a safe space for artists and audiences

Len DiCosimo, President of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) Local 4, joined America’s Work Force Union Podcast to discuss mask requirements and vaccine mandates, particularly at concerts and theater performances.

He also discussed how the American Rescue Plan helped artists, musicians and venues recover from the financial devastation of the pandemic — and why the arts need to stick together through these trying times.

Vaccinations are important as a matter of community responsibility

With vaccinations being widely accessible, many venues have reopened but insist on taking precautions — asking patrons to mask up and often requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within a certain time parameter of the performance.

Severance Hall and Playhouse Square in Cleveland, Ohio, for example, require patrons to be masked indoors when not eating or drinking. Patrons must also present proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.

Musicians in the AFM are comfortable with such requirements because health and safety are prioritized, DiCosimo said.

Nevertheless, the requirements have led to cancellations on both sides of the coin — audience members requesting ticket refunds or sometimes artists cancelling performances. Discretionary income continues to be gained and lost as a result of COVID-19, he added.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been extremely hard on performers. Entertainers have not had a performance schedule unaffected by the pandemic for the last three calendar years — not since the 2018-2019 season, said DiCosimo.

Members of the AFM continue to work on settlements as the financial fallout of this pandemic is weighed and figured out, he said.

American Rescue Plan provides a lifeline to artists and venues

Fortunately, the American Rescue Plan was a great, helpful resource for artists, venues and museums. The grants provided a major boon to the industry at a much needed time, he said. One particular grant under the Build Back Better regional challenge includes seven different programs to which applicants can apply — everything from fine arts to travel to tourism.

One interesting aspect of the American Rescue Plan is it includes funds specifically for indigenous communities, as well as rural and coal communities, DiCosimo said.


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