City leaders are hoping to utilize streaming for art programming amid the pandemic, and some programs are already underway digitally.
Terri Moore, Director of Athens Arts, Parks and Recreation, updated Athens City Council during its Oct. 26 meeting about the state of the ARTS/West building, which has been closed since March.
Although the tentative date for the buildings reopening is Jan. 4, which Moore confirmed with The Athens NEWS, the sole full-time employee of the arts building who was laid off in August will return to work this November. Director Moore cited the reason for the layoff as being a lack of work that resulted from the cancellation of rentals, programming and services.
Many city facilities were closed in response to the pandemic and under state orders, Moore said. She noted that on July 30, her department corresponded with the Athens City-County Health department to inquire about bringing programming to ARTS/West, such as P.R.I.S.M. Moore said the health department recommended the Arts, Parks and Recreation department to stream programs virtually.
The Performing Arts restart order was not offered by the state until Aug. 24. Moore noted the department has continued to offer certain programs, such as “Spoken and Heard” and “Silver Linings.”
The capacity at ARTS/West is 273, and with state-ordered reduction of building capacity, the building could hold 41 people, Moore said. In addition, group activities are restricted to 10 individuals or less, and masks are required inside the building.
Moore said the recreation center sees its highest number of participants on Mondays, seeing hundreds people, and Saturdays see the smallest collection of people: roughly 40.
Mayor Steve Patterson stated that the city is looking into the use of CARES Act funding to improve broadband services at the ARTS/West building. In addition, the mayor noted the city’s government channel is working to see what equipment is necessary to stream content from Arts/WEST.
At the Oct. 26 meeting, Mayor Patterson said that additional funding, which was already allocated for the city, can also go toward broadband services, regardless of the Dec. 30 timeline for CARES Act funded-project completion.
“I feel strongly that for that particular facility, having the ability to program virtual content on a reliable basis is what’s going to make it successful moving forward,” Patterson said. “We’re all hopefully well aware that COVID-19 is not ending any time soon.”
CARES Act funding, Patterson said, has already funded the purchase of depolarizing ionizers, which are currently in the city’s community building to filter circulating air. The police department, Arts/WEST and the law director’s building also have depolarizing ionizers.
“We’re doing everything to make sure it’s as safe as an environment as possible,” he said.
Moore previously said that her department had weekly meetings with the Athens City-County Health Department to be advised about best practices during the pandemic and receive approval for planning.