i don't want to think about it

Snow falling on cedars – and cedars falling onto our building. 

As the staff member at 4Culture who nags her co-workers about having spare clothes, necessary medications, and sturdy shoes around just in case, it was predictable that I would want to attend a presentation about ArtsReady, a guide to help organizations plan for disaster.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that ArtsReady wasn’t the usual “duck, cover and hold” guidance. ArtsReady is less about disasters and more about considering any crisis that would interrupt a cultural organization’s business. ArtsReady is a web-based platform that guides organizations through risk assessment and development of a customized readiness plan. It is designed to help us plan and think through the entire range of critical functions that an organization needs to keep going in order to operate successfully.

During the presentation about ArtsReady, I heard several administrators from fellow organizations tell their stories and it made me realize, that it’s not just the 7.2 earthquake, the consuming tsunami, or the ravaging fire that can devastate an organization. It can be a small accident or unforeseen loss that can set us way back. Here are a few things I heard from administrators:

  • A pipe burst near our theater during a performance, the lights went out and we had to find flashlights to usher attendees out. We had no refund policy in place for this kind of thing!
  • We couldn’t get into our building for a week because of a fire in the business on the first floor. We didn’t have remote access to any of our files, including payroll and our board list. Ugh, it was a mess!
  • Our founding artistic director had a cardiac arrest during rehearsals and died. We had to make sure his will allowed us to continue presenting his work!

ArtsReady was conceived in 2006 after South Arts collected and distributed $200,000 to artist and arts organizations affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. They said it became obvious at that time, that we in the nonprofit arts sector, did not have the training or knowledge to help rebound from emergencies. The ArtsReady platform has been built as an open-source tool; it also has been and will continue to be “community-designed,” informed throughout by those who will use the tool.

I know this is boring stuff, but it’s important. ArtsReady can assist all cultural organizations think through their critical business functions and make a plan. Please join 4Culture in becoming ArtsReady!

© 2010 Sea Turtle, Fire on Capitol Hill, Seattle