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by Sam Hurwitt

Bay Area arts organizations want you to know that they’re ready. They’re ready to invite patrons back into their spaces in as safe a way as can be managed amid an ongoing pandemic. They’re ready to envelop audiences in arts experiences that challenge the mind and nurture the soul. 

That’s the message of #BayAreaArtsTogether, a joint marketing campaign that was launched on November 9 by more than 100 local arts and cultural organizations, from theatres and dance companies to museums and music and film organizations. In just the couple weeks since the campaign launched, the list of groups has grown to include more than 150. 

Jennifer Bielstein sitting in purple theatre seats. She is a light skinned woman with shoulder length light brown hair. She is wearing an olive green cardigan and a black shirt. She is similing with her teeth showing and resting her hands on the row of seats in front of her.

Jennifer Bielstein. Photo by Kevin Berne.

“At some point earlier in the summer, it was actually pre Delta variant being a big thing, there were different pieces of data talking about how people who live here in the Bay Area were going to be slower to return from the impacts of COVID to performances and visiting museums and events,” says American Conservatory Theater executive director Jennifer Bielstein, the prime organizer of the campaign. “And so we pulled together and said, what is it that we could do to help rebuild confidence and remind people of the value we deliver to their lives? The power that we have to inspire them and connect them and unify and to heal. And so we decided that we would develop some shared messaging.”

Focused around the single word “ready,” the campaign is primarily intended to be integrated into each participating organization’s existing publicity efforts, but the ever-growing list of organizations involved and an inspirational video can be found at

“The whole idea was to do something that we could all overlay with our planned marketing and communications efforts and not try to raise additional funds to invest in separate advertising and marketing efforts just for this,” Bielstein says. “We wanted to do it in a really scrappy way. Everyone is resource constrained.”

“What we liked about it was that it talked to two audiences,” says San Francisco Symphony creative director Larry Williams, who teamed with Shotgun Players director of marketing and communications Jayme Catalano to dream up the messaging and materials. “It talked to the performing arts groups who are ready to perform again, who are working to put on safe productions or safe exhibits. But then also, from a patron’s standpoint, we were all ready to get out. Even thinking of myself as a patron, I was so ready to just disappear into some type of art, whether it was visual or sonic like a symphony. That word ‘ready’ just kept coming back, and it kind of meets you wherever you are. What are you ready for? And we’re hoping the answer is everybody’s ready just to start coming back to at least a semblance of normal, if that’s possible.”

Of course, because the pandemic is still far from over, there are different reasons why patrons may not feel ready to return. Some may well still worry about going to crowded indoor events, especially if they have family members who are immunocompromised or cannot yet be vaccinated. “Ready” may be a resonant message, but not everyone may feel ready. 

“We did it as a sentence rather than a question mark,” says Williams. “But it was sort of, wherever you are and wherever ready means to you. I thought it was like a skeleton key of all the different emotions that are out there. Because there are people who were first in line: whoever was performing or doing something, they were going to everything. And there are some people who are still a little bit cautious. They want to know, what are your procedures? What are your safety standards? So we wanted this campaign to reflect that as well.”

“Every organization has emphasized the safety measures that we have in place,” Bielstein says. “With so many organizations, there will be nuances between exactly what their protocols are and such, but everyone is following the strictest city and county and state safety protocols. And so we’re emphasizing that safety and health are at the forefront of what we are doing. But what we believe and see is that with almost two years of being in this pandemic, patterns have changed. And so people need a reminder of the value they derived from coming to our organizations and seeing different artists’ work around the community. So I think it’s not exclusively a safety concern. It’s also a changed pattern concern.”

Ultimately, says Bielstein, “We hope that by collectively getting this out there amongst all of these 150 organizations, that will resonate with people and get them to shift these patterns that they’ve developed over the past almost 20 months of not going out and about and taking advantage of all of these arts and cultural organizations.”

“Traditionally we’ve never really spoken with one voice,” Williams adds, “and we thought that this was a good opportunity.”

Sam Hurwitt is a freelance journalist and playwright based in the Bay Area. Follow him at

Learn more about the baseline joint protocols that Bay Area arts & cultural organizations.