Chandler Center for the Arts Models Sustainability During Pandemic

Jan. 7, 2021
| by:
Communications and Public Affairs

In March of 2020, Chandler Center for the Arts shut its doors for in-person events to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — a necessary move that left the future of the 2020-21 season uncertain.

But the show must go on. When faced with the challenge of supporting an arts community without any in-person patrons, Chandler Center for the Arts made quick changes and has been able to adapt and continue on with its most successful season to date.

Making Changes, Supporting Artists

At the beginning of the pandemic, CCA staff had to think on their feet. Performer Buddy Guy was on his way to the facility for a performance on March 13, 2020, when the Center made the call to cease live shows.

“It was a game-time decision to keep people safe,” said Michelle Mac Lennan, general manager of Chandler Center for the Arts. “When we got through the initial chaos, our next question was, ‘What are we going to do to keep moving forward?’”

Mac Lennan and the team at the CCA worked with the Board of the Chandler Cultural Foundation to come up with a solution that focused on true sustainability. 

“From the beginning, our mission was to stay relevant and continue to support artists,” Mac Lennan said. “We knew we wanted to be a source of hope and a part of the economic solution.” 

That solution was to use new ideas to bring the arts to Chandler, including virtual concerts and ticketed at-home events, streamable online and on social media.

“Our first virtual programming began streaming on April 25, 2020,” Mac Lennan said. “Our CCA Anywhere performances are pre-recorded and premier on our website, with many available to watch later. They are accessible from anywhere at any time to keep the arts alive for people to enjoy safely at home.”

The CCA Anywhere performances have continued to premier weekly throughout the course of the pandemic. Thanks to a successful pre-pandemic season, some emergency grant aid funds, as well as generous support from members and donors, the CCA has continued to facilitate community arts while financially supporting artists every step of the way.

“We have continued to pay our artists, regardless of whether we are selling tickets or the performance is free,” Mac Lennan said. “That is something we feel strongly about.”

New Ideas Spur Ongoing Support

Innovative ideas for offering patrons arts programming during the pandemic have extended beyond free virtual concerts. The CCA has come up with new ideas for serving the public. 

“We have looked for new ways to expand our offerings,” Mac Lennan said. “We’ve partnered with professional artists to offer virtual field trips to help educators with their lesson planning. Because they are virtual, these trips have not been limited by class size the way in-person trips are. We’ve been able to serve even more students and educators this way.”

Outdoor concerts are also on the agenda for the CCA for people who are eager to get out of the house. With a maximum of 50 guests per show and socially distanced seating, patrons can enjoy an Arizona evening under the stars at the CCA and Chandler Museum.  

Socially distanced outdoor performance under the stars

“Some people are ready to leave the house and want to do it safely outside, and some are still staying cautious and prefer the virtual experiences from home,” Mac Lennan said. “We are rolling with the times and trying to meet people where they are, continuing to keep high-quality virtual performances as an option.”

Planning for a Safer Future

As the pandemic continues through 2021, Mac Lennan and the CCA staff are planning for a safe, successful year. The Center is taking advantage of the flexibility virtual performances provide, using the new opportunity to expand its creative lens. 

“When we aren’t focusing on filling seats in a large venue, we can broaden the list of artists we want to work with,” Mac Lennan said. “It is thrilling to seek out super hot new artists for these unique opportunities. Our patrons have something fresh to engage with, and it gives the Center a new edge.”

The future of the arts may look different in Chandler, but Mac Lennan assures residents the CCA will continue to adapt and grow with the times.

“Our model at the Center is sustainability,” Mac Lennan said. “We have the best group of professionals in the state. They are taking on an enormous amount of work to overhaul and market these new endeavors to reach wide audiences and help the CCA grow in 2021 and beyond.”