FROM CHRIS’ HOME DESK – AN EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S VIEW
APRIL 26, 2021
Can you see it? There is a light ahead, and it’s getting closer. What a remarkable journey we’ve had this past year. In the first of these blogs back in March 2020, I commented on seeing a man playing the guitar on his front porch while I was on a walk. It was the first live music I had seen in a few weeks, and I was ecstatic about it. Weeks…that’s what I said…a year ago.
It’s amazing the endurance we can exhibit when the need arises, and all of us have had to show strength and patience as we continue through this pandemic. Things also come into perspective. I now think of “weeks” in terms of the few short weeks I have to wait for my second vaccine (hooray!) and the few short weeks more before we open on July 9 for our first live performance featuring AJ Croce, the son of legendary Jim Croce. That date has a lot of circles around it on my calendar. I hope you will feel comfortable joining me on that date for what is sure to be a memorable concert.
I’m sure people have many questions around our reopening plans…how safe is it really? And what will be different? Well, one thing you will notice is that no one will be allowed to enter the theater without a mask. You may also notice changes in concessions. But what you won’t notice is something equally important. Our HVAC system has been updated to use the high-rated MERV-13 filters. MERV-13 filters block out extremely small particles, even those as small as from viruses like the one that has been the bane of our existence for the past year. The theater has a high rate of air circulation – air inside the theater is completely replaced every 6.5 minutes. Many people assume the black boxes below most seats are speakers but they are actually air returns. They continually pull fresh air from the catwalks above, into the massive air flow system below the seats, so new air surrounds your personal space. You may also notice more frequent bathroom cleaning and we have a new electrostatic sprayer – it looks like a “Ghostbusters” backpack – used to sanitize all seats and high-touch spaces between shows.
Coming back to the theater will be as safe as we can make it. I only request that while we do our part, you also do your part before coming to the theater. Get a vaccine if you can, practice physical distancing, take care of your health, and if you feel unwell before a show, just call us and we will exchange or refund your ticket. We want to keep everyone safe.
I can’t wait to see you in what is now truly “just a few weeks,” as we take these first steps back into the Bankhead Theater to enjoy the Arts together.
MARCH 12, 2021
Art is light. It opens us up to what is out there and allows us to see and hear what is beautiful in this world. 365 days ago, as a result of the spreading pandemic, the state restricted gatherings to no more than 250 people. I remember feeling great sadness as we started to cancel performances, and the fear that our light at Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center was in danger of going out.
With uncertainty, we closed our doors and had to ask most of our staff to reduce their hours to zero, but a few remained and we have not let the light go out. The earned revenue we depend on to operate dropped nearly 100% overnight. Classes, exhibits and performances were cancelled, including a Livermore Valley Opera production halfway into a stellar run, and yet we did not let the light go out. In spite of the circumstances, support from donations went up, because our community refused to let the light go out. We mobilized, applied for grants and loans, and came up with virtual programming and exhibits featuring great local artists to keep the light from going out. We were able to give both children and adults opportunities to develop new art skills at home through online classes so the light did not go out. Good fortune arrived over the summer with our first-ever estate gift, and then again with the “Best of the Bankhead” virtual gala. The combined fundraising between those two events equaled nearly $900,000 and gave that light new life.
I recently listened to an interview with one my musical heroes, Dave Grohl. He has been an incredible advocate for live performance over the past year. For me, the most memorable comment he made was, “Don’t ever let the light at the end of the tunnel go out.” As a community, we all stepped into a very long tunnel one year ago today. It has been hard for many of us and devastating for some, but there was not a moment where we decided to let the light of the Arts go out. I believe that is because we know that gathering in a meaningful and intentional way to experience the Arts has been a tradition since ancient times. It is somehow in our DNA to share that joy and to have the hope that we will soon step out of the tunnel into the light, to once again see and hear those things that make living worthwhile.
In the face of the most difficult circumstances one can imagine, our organization has survived this year with your help. In order to make it to the day we can reopen and to remain as strong as ever, please consider joining our Drive for 365 – a new goal we have set – to reach 365 donations over the next month. Thank you for supporting the Arts this past year and for keeping the light from going out.
JANUARY 22, 2021
As I sit down to write this, I realize that in just 48 days it will have been a full year since the Bankhead Theater, and every other performing arts venue in California, had to close in light of the quickly spreading pandemic. We have learned a few things in the past 317 days as we have explored the new world of virtual programming. One thing we learned is that presenting a musical or theatrical performance does not mean it is always going to be successful. But when you’re competing with YouTube and thousands of other streaming events, local artists and speakers do draw a more engaged audience. If you have not participated in one of our online speaker programs yet, I would highly encourage you to check one out. Now is a good time to try something new – consider joining us for the National Geographic Live Speaker series.
The Nat Geo Live series has toured for a few years and I have played with the idea of bringing it to the Bankhead in the past. The commitment and costs were a little too much to move forward, but when they offered a virtual series, I felt compelled to investigate. We reached out to our friends at Quest Science Center and the Rae Dorough Speaker Series about co-presenting and they were excited to participate. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate partnerships with other organizations like them. Sharing resources and strengths always make sense and I’m huge proponent of developing strong partnerships in our community.
I don’t know about you, but when I think about National Geographic, the first thing that comes to mind is the magazines my parents subscribed to when I was growing up. It was the kind of magazine that never got thrown out and traveled with us from home to home. I still remember going through the heavy cardboard box to find interesting stories with incredible photos. I also remember those articles being really long, and sometimes hard for me to get through at that age. No matter what, there was always a sense that they contained important and valuable knowledge about our world.
The first Nat Geo Live event last Wednesday was on “Life on Other Worlds” and I hope that everyone who participated enjoyed it as much as I did. I always joke that, when I listen to speakers talk about science and engineering, I leave feeling both a little smarter and a little dumber at the same time. I always learn so much, while simultaneously discovering that I have so much to learn. It was very well done and fun to be a part of such an event. I’m really looking forward to the next five events with topics ranging from dinosaurs reimagined to women in migration. I hope you’ll want to join us and discover something new!
NOVEMBER 23, 2020
On the morning of March 13 this year I woke up feeling despondent. That’s probably the best word for it. Just a few weeks earlier I had been appointed into the role of Executive Director for our Performing Arts Center – a position that I was truly excited about and honored to be in – before the world changed, and I had to make the call to close everything. That same day I had to tell most of our staff they couldn’t come back to work, possibly for a long time. The few staff who remained were to take a significant pay cut. The future looked bleak. It was not clear on that morning how we would survive a closure, even for a few months. I came home that day and, for the first time in a long time, I cried. Yes, despondent is a very good word for how I felt that day.
I know many of us have felt that to some degree this year, but as humans tend to do, we get up and we move forward. Someone told me once that all the best sad songs have a sliver of hope in them. So we chose hope over despondency and began the work of finding ways to save the Theater and continue to deliver the Arts as best as we can.
On the morning of November 22 I woke up feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude. We completed “The Best of the Bankhead” our first ever virtual benefit the night before, and when it is all added up, it looks like we will have raised nearly $200,000. I want to thank everyone who supported us on Saturday night. It was somewhat strange performing for an empty audience, but we could definitely feel everyone out there watching. I loved looking over at the chat feed coming through. There were so many names of people I know and miss. The goal of the night was to raise the resources needed to continue operating so we will be able to bring our staff back intact. We have a wonderful staff. Many of them were watching as well and even contributing, which tells me how important this space is them. In the six years I have worked here, it has become evident to me that the staff believe they are stewards and protectors of this space. And it is a role they take very seriously. Now after last night, I have come to realize that many of you in our community also feel the same way. So Thank you for seeing value in the Arts. Thank you for protecting the Bankhead Theater and the people who give it life.
Yes, I believe gratitude is the perfect word for how I feel right now, and it is always a good word for this time of year. Until we know for sure when we will be able to open again, we are not fully out of the woods, but there is a path now and I see daylight. Whenever that day comes and we are all together again to experience the Arts, I believe the perfect word to describe that feeling will be … joy.
NOVEMBER 1, 2020
This is a stressful time and the daily reminders are visceral; they affect us physically and we cannot avoid them. Every time we put on a mask, we remember exactly the state of things. Every time we look at our phone, turn on the TV or radio, we witness the challenges we collectively face, between the pandemic, the economy, politics, and our daily life. Normally, I am an avid reader of the news, but now it seems much more difficult to follow. When I get the newspaper (yes I still read it every day), my first inclination now is to go the comics section for relief.
Last week, I sat on an online Saint Mary’s College alumni panel for a career night, where we tried to give advice to students regarding their career paths. One student asked how to achieve a work/life balance in these times, when the two so often overlap. And it occurred to me that sometimes life feels like work, especially now, and people might even choose to work to escape the challenges of their home life. So the right answer is not seeking a balance between work and home, but in seeking time for self-care, which I think is different.
Life is stressful and there is not really a way to escape all reminders. I had a brief escape as I drove into the office at 7:00am for a board meeting. It was much too early to listen to the news, so I listened to some of my favorite music. There’s a songwriter I really like, Jesse Winchester. Unfortunately he passed away years ago, but I just love some of his songs. As I was driving down Stanley Road watching the sun rise, I was thinking how beautiful one of his songs was. And at that moment I came to the realization that, although this is a difficult time in the industry, what I love about my job so much is that it is my privilege to remind people about the beautiful side of our humanity. The Arts truly exemplify the very best of what are and what we can do. They may challenge us to think in new ways, but ultimately we are drawn to them because they make us feel good. I know I am fortunate in many ways, perhaps especially because of what I do every day – through my work I get to immerse myself in a beautiful product and, in that way, I also contribute to my own self-care.
Art is necessary and beautiful. If you have already filled out your ballot, then turn off those things which bring anxiety into our lives and focus instead on your own self-care. There will be a day in the future, hopefully sooner rather than later, when we will once again be able to come together inside the Bankhead Theater for a much needed dose of that that kind of “medicine.” Until then, please consider supporting the Arts as best you can. Your ongoing efforts to help Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center are vital to the care of our community and provide opportunity for the very best kind of “self-care” – enjoyment of the arts.
(Don’t forget to join us for our Best of the Bankhead Virtual Benefit on Nov. 21, it will be great fun!)
AUGUST 10, 2020
Many nights at the Bankhead over the years, I recall standing in front of the Scott Haggerty Founders Room before a performance when a certain couple would come over to say hi. If you don’t know where the room is, don’t give yourself a hard time, it’s somewhat nondescript. The door is at the corner of the lobby on the left as you enter, next to the water fountain and stairwell. During performances, the room is reserved for Ovation Members, those who give $1,000 or more annually to Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center. There they can grab a glass of wine or some dessert, and rest before a show or during intermission with friends. This particular couple never went in that room. They were frequent patrons and members, but not at that level. They always stopped by to say hello however, before making their way to the elevator. The elderly woman was in a wheelchair, diligently steered by her husband, on their way to their same seats in the very back row. We saw them frequently and it was obvious that they loved the Bankhead Theater and, of course, each other.
We were saddened to learn two years ago about the woman’s passing and then last fall that her husband had followed. That sadness has been softened by extreme gratitude. We were informed that Jene and Isabelle Dupzyk named LVPAC as a beneficiary in their trust. Last week we received the deed to a home they owned in Livermore. This couple, who over a 10-year period donated just over $1,500 to our organization, left LVPAC its first Legacy Gift, a home appraised at approximately $700,000. This gift, one of the largest in our history, comes at a time of incredible need and I can’t tell you how much I wish I could thank them. We intend to honor them and this gift as best we can by finding ways to share their passion for the arts in our community.
One thing I’ve learned over my years working in the nonprofit sector is that no matter how much research you might do, how many special events and meet-and-greets you hold, you never know where the next transformative donation is going to come from. The Dupzyks never set foot in the Founders Room, yet they chose to find the most meaningful way possible to make an impact. There have been times over the last few months that I have had difficulty seeing the point in continuing on with this work while we remain closed with no end in sight. Then there are moments like this, where I can reflect on the incredible generosity of Isabelle and Jene Dupzyk and it brings me tremendous hope for the future of the Arts and for all of us.
So the next time, you set foot in the Bankhead Theater for a performance, please be sure to give a silent nod and a thank you to the Dupzyks, who have helped secure our survival during these most difficult of circumstances.
JULY 17, 2020
One thing people may not know about me is that I love a good book. I’m not always successful, but I try to make sure that I read every day. Over time, I’ve discovered what I like, and I tend to stick to a few certain themes. I enjoy history, especially American history. As someone with a background in psychology, I like to read books about the human condition and why we do what we do. I will dabble in sci-fi and fantasy as well, but I have to admit my absolute favorite genre is the western. I like to think of westerns as romance novels for men. They often are slow-moving, poetic, extremely thoughtful and then interspersed with a little action every now and then. I’ve tried to figure out why I love them so much and I think it’s because they are stories of resilience. It was such a hard life, and how the characters in these books managed to live so fully always inspired me. The only time I’ve ever cried reading was with a western. My favorite book of all time is True Grit, the story of a young girl, Mattie Ross, who hires a rough, low-life US Marshal named Rooster Cogburn to track down the man who killed her father. The relationship does not start out well, but over time, it changes as a result of their shared experience. What I find most compelling is their resilience in the face of the most difficult circumstances. I just finished another western novel called News of the World, which I highly recommend. It’s another great story about love and resilience in the hardest of conditions.
I’ve been thinking more and more about that idea of resilience lately. This is a time when we are all being asked to be resilient, to persevere in a challenging time. People from all backgrounds are being presented with difficult decisions, from the school administrators, parents, teachers and students, to small business owners, hospitality services, and places of worship. The arts and entertainment industry, in particular, was the first to close and will be the last to open. A pervasive feeling of loss is particularly acute for this sector. In a recent survey by the National Independent Venues Association (NIVA), of the 2000 venues who responded, 90 percent stated that even with PPP loans and current assistance available, they will be forced to permanently close within six months if they are not able to open or receive more assistance.
Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center is fortunate to be an independent organization. As a non-profit, we can fundraise and control our own budget, as we are not a subset of any college or city’s budget. Our independence allows us more freedom to manage our own destiny, to find our own ways to be creative, resilient and persevere. But although our horizon is further out than six months, our model will not be sustainable over an extended period of time without help.
The Bankhead Theater is closed and much of our staff is furloughed, but we are working to stay as active as possible with online art classes, in-person camps at the Bothwell, virtual speakers and online open mic nights. I have submitted our reopening plan to the county and am waiting for feedback regarding in what phase we can gradually and safely start to reopen the Bankhead. We will strive to keep you as informed as possible. I’m planning opportunities to meet and connect with you online and offer virtual backstage tours and Q&A sessions. I’m eager to hear how we can best serve you and our community in these difficult times.
Finally, while we must remain creatively resilient, we can only do that with the support of our creatively resilient patrons. In addition to traditional cash donation, there are many ways to give. We can accept gifts of stock, IRA charitable rollovers for anyone over 70½, crypto currency, and even real property in some situations. And this year, for traditional donations, the CARES Act allows additional, “above-the-line” deductions for charitable cash gifts up to $300.
Thank you for all your support and let’s continue to stay positive and be resilient together. And by the way, if there’s a western novel that you really love, please send me the title. I’m always looking for something new to read. Stay safe and healthy, and thank you for all your support.
JUNE 25, 2020
It’s been three weeks now since my last blog, and so much has happened since then it’s taken me a while to gather my thoughts and bring them to paper. Last Friday I traveled for the first time to Arizona to attend a memorial service for a family member on my father’s side of the family. In order to get my boarding pass, I had to confirm that I would check my temperature before coming to the airport and promise not to fly if I was displaying any symptoms of the virus. I have to admit, I was definitely nervous to fly, but everyone wore their masks and maintained proper distancing as best as possible.
Once there, we went to the service where masks were required and temperatures were checked at the door. There was a lunch buffet, but you were not allowed to serve yourself or touch anything. I had heard that in Arizona people were not adhering as well to the new mandates, but I was happy this was not the case in my own experience. Everyone respected the guidelines and did their best to keep people safe. It gave me hope as I started to think about what changes we will have to make at the theater and how we will rely heavily on the patrons to follow the rules so we can all be healthy together.
The memorial service was in an old mining town in eastern Arizona named Globe where my dad grew up. Not many people outside Arizona know about it, but I’ve been there many times since I was young. Every time we go there, my dad will drive around and point out all the special places that made up his formative years. It was obviously a special place, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to connect with it. I think there’s something about going home that helps to center you. Coming home for a funeral also helps put things in context. This pandemic has been hard on so many people, yet I still can’t help but feel fortunate to be here right now in this moment and feel grateful for what we have.
Now back to the Arts. We recently sent out a survey to our patrons in an attempt to understand better how people feel about coming back to the Bankhead Theater when we are able to reopen. As expected, the responses have been varied. I’m learning that there is no correct response to these questions, and people’s feelings about reopening are very personal. They will make choices based on their own situations and comfort levels.
Although we have been waiting on guidance from the county, we have nearly completed our site-specific plan for the reopening of the Bankhead and will adjust it accordingly to meet any additional guidelines. Based on my recent trip, I do believe that whatever the conditions are when we open, people will overwhelmingly respect all the guidelines we have in place. We continue to remain cautious and optimistic that we will be able to deliver on our stated mission of engaging our diverse community with the arts in the safest possible manner.
MAY 29, 2020
Like most families, we had great plans for this summer filled with camps, family visits and vacations. Obviously those plans have fallen to the wayside. Today was officially the last day of school for our three kids, and my wife and I have been asking each other, “OK, what do we do with them now?” I have a feeling that question is a common one for families all across the state and country right now. We have some ideas. I think we’re going to assign each of them one day a week to plan and make dinner. Regular exercise routines tied to rewards could also become a thing in our household. Our teenagers will continue their driving lessons with Mom and Dad. And on top of that, we have a puppy to take care of so maybe it won’t be that bad…maybe.
Or maybe since we don’t have plans, we should use this time to make plans for the future. At Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center, we are doing just that. This summer our board of directors will work with me and other key staff to revise our long-term strategic plan. The current situation will play a big part in that effort. We had our first meeting yesterday and there were a lot of great suggestions on how to approach it. Just like our local government, we have begun to speak in the language of “phases.” Phase 1 – operate and make it through the closure, Phase 2 – smart, safe and gradual reopening, Phase 3 – bring back what works and let go of what might not, Phase 4 – grow, Phase 5 – start planning again. While those were not the precise words used, that was how I heard it playing out in my mind.
The first Phase will be the most challenging for a number of reasons. Someone recently sent me a white paper from the UC Riverside School of Business that was difficult to read, but nonetheless a true reflection of what I have seen in the arts sector. Over the past year all across America, employment in the creative sector has decreased a staggering 54 percent. The importance of that figure cannot be overlooked when the arts and cultural industry contributes a full eight percent to the California Gross Domestic Product (GDP.) A recent study by Americans for the Arts found that in Livermore alone, the total industry expenditures related to the Arts was over $9.4 million in 2018. And to further articulate the stress being felt in the industry, only one percent of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans from the CARES act has gone to the arts and culture sector. There is a wide disparity between what the arts does for the economy and what has been done to aid the arts, compared to other industries. This is why private support is so important to us and to other arts organizations.
At Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center, we are fortunate to have such a wonderful base of support, and I want to personally thank you for your help. I encourage you to continue to believe in us. The Arts will be back and will be more meaningful than ever as our world emerges from these challenging times. Your investment in the Arts helps generate a rich return that can support and nourish our whole community.
MAY 18, 2020
I have to confess that I am not a dog person. I’m actually not a pet person, if you must know. Growing up, we never had a dog and I never had the desire to ask for one as a child. I also never wanted one as an adult. My wife and I have been married for eighteen years and we have three kids who have begged for a dog pretty much since they were born, but we resisted. Nearly everyone in our families has dogs so it’s not as if we haven’t had the opportunity. I’ve heard all the good reasons to get one, especially for children, but we have always pushed back. We’ve had our reasons – we’re too busy, it’s too much work, we’re out of town too much, they would be too messy, and of course I’m allergic to dogs. Our kids persisted and insisted that they needed a dog. They even went so far as to create a PowerPoint presentation on it, but we stood our ground…until now.
With the pandemic keeping us home for the foreseeable future, it became clear that if we were ever going to do it, this would be the time. So on Saturday, we surprised them when we brought home an 8-week old Maltipoo (Maltese and Poodle mix). They decided to name her Charlie, and I hate to admit it, but I’m in love with this dog.
This new situation we are in has challenged us to think in new ways. I keep hearing the word “pivot.” I’m not really a fan of buzz words, but we do need to make changes in order to live and operate in a post-COVID world. Our family unit just made a huge leap – the way we operate is going through a major alteration. Ultimately, we will be better for it. We will be a stronger family unit, and having a new member to care for will teach us many lessons and bring us closer together.
So when the curtain rises again at the Bankhead Theater what will be different? There are new guidelines coming out now regarding how we can operate safely. Most indicators point to the first concerts being outdoors. Some places are experimenting with car concerts. I’m starting to talk with different potential partners about moving what we present to outdoor spaces until we get an “all-clear” to operate in the Bankhead under the new guidelines. There is also a lot of talk about online and streaming concerts. I believe that those elements can be a nice addition to what we are able to offer, but they will never be able to replace the allure of live performance. There is a magic in sharing the arts, sitting with others in a darkened theater. And there will be a day when that will once again be our primary operation. I believe it may take a vaccine to get us to that point, but I’ve been surprised before. I once thought I wouldn’t like owning a dog!
In order to make any of this a reality, we need you now more than ever. May is our annual membership drive, so please consider a donation. As an added bonus, all gifts this month are being matched dollar-for-dollar up to a total of $50,000. Achieving that milestone would be a great reason for celebration and will help carry us through the time until we can open again.
Until we meet again in person, please stay safe and healthy, and thank you for your continued support.
APRIL 29, 2020
Last week I shared a weekly ritual I have with my twelve-year-old son, and someone reached out and suggested that, since I set that precedent, I might want to include my other family members in future stories. So here’s one about my older son who is fifteen. He’s a bit of a movie buff and since the shelter in place has started we have been picking movies to watch together. The selection criteria we use is simply, “movies everyone should see.” So far we’ve watched films like Forest Gump, Dead Poets Society, and The Matrix. There’s one in particular we watched that just started to resonate with me, and that one is Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray. For those who are unfamiliar with it, Bill Murray plays a grumpy news reporter who keeps repeating the same day over and over again, and it happens to be Groundhog day in a small town that he hates. At first, he wakes up every day full of resentment, but then slowly but surely, he uses the time he has been given to learn new skills, get to know the people in his community, and improve himself as a person. He turns it from a curse to a gift.
The longer this shelter-in-place goes, the more it feels like Groundhog Day to me. I wake up at the same time and place, and basically have the same routine. I’ve talked to several people about this phenomenon, and they have all confirmed the same thing. So now my new question when I talk to people is, “What are you learning?” I know that for some people this order has been a true hardship financially and emotionally. Others who are more fortunate have been able to take the opportunity to learn to make sourdough bread or sew, or some other new skill. My college friends and I are constantly sending photos of the food we’re grilling. It’s so weird, but it’s fun too. I just learned how to spatchcock a chicken last weekend for the first time (if you’re wondering, it’s a way to prepare a chicken for cooking). Thank you YouTube.
So now my question to everyone out there is, “How are you using this time to grow?” Have you picked up an instrument that you haven’t touched in forever? Are you reading more? Do you pick up the phone and call old friends and family? Are you having Zoom reunions, or zoomunions as I like to call them? I don’t in any way want to discount how hard this has been on our communities, but I’ve always tried to be a “silver-lining” person, and I have a feeling when we come out of this, we will all be better at something.
Let’s talk about the arts because that’s something I am always thinking about. Once we are able to resume life as before, the way the arts industry operates will be markedly different. Online forms of delivery will continue to increase. We will experience the arts together and separately at the same time. The challenge for more intimate venues like ours will be, “How do we set ourselves apart in this new landscape?”
At the heart of what we do, Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center is still a local, community-centered nonprofit organization. Those local connections will become more important. Instead of focusing outward, we will find ways to focus in, to celebrate and explore what is happening here in our region. It won’t be the same as before, and it shouldn’t be. This is not Groundhog Day, but until our world starts to open up again, we can use this time to enhance our abilities, to engage our community of art creators and art lovers in new ways that will remain meaningful now and into the future.
APRIL 22, 2020
My twelve-year-old son and I enjoy a guilty pleasure every Wednesday night – it’s our ritual to share the couch and obsess over “The Masked Singer” on television. If you’ve never seen it, let me summarize it for you. Celebrities in elaborate costumes perform on stage for a panel of other celebrities who have fun guessing who is behind the mask. Admittedly, I don’t know much about pop culture so I’m clueless most of the time, but it’s not deep or meaningful, just pure ridiculous fun. The performers say that by being in disguise – wearing masks – they feel liberated, free of the normal expectations and pressures of being in the public eye. Maybe there’s something to that.
Now that we all have to wear masks, I don’t necessarily feel more free. They protect us, but I have to admit I really miss smiles. I have a somewhat low-key personality and have made a concerted effort over the last few years to smile more. Masks make that tough and drawing a smile on the front might look creepy!
I miss other things too, especially being able to program great performances and events for the community. We’re unable right now to execute on our mission, which means we are unable to provide the connection with the arts that helps lift all of us up in a way we really need right now. In essence, our organization is having to wear a mask. But just like a hidden smile, there are some positive things to report from behind that mask.
First of all, I’m happy to share that Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center received the important Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loan which will allow us to continue with our current staff for the next few months. During that time, we will be planning programs you can access safely from home and, eventually, at the Bankhead Theater when that becomes possible. Make sure you stay connected with us to get announcements and the latest updates.
While I am very pleased about the loan, we are still approaching our fiscal year-end on June 30 with more than $1,000,000 in lost revenue. It will be several years before we are able to operate at the level we did before COVID-19. If you can help support our efforts, there are new incentives for you through the CARES act. You can now claim an “above-the-line” tax deduction for up to $300 in cash donations – allowing most people to include charitable contributions on their taxes. We also welcome gifts such as stock or IRA minimum distribution contributions.
Thank you for all the support and encouragement we’ve received so far. I’m looking forward to seeing your smiles again.
APRIL 15, 2020
I grew up in the cassette era and still have all the tapes I bought during my teenage years. I diligently kept them safe under my bed for over 20 years but, after a recent remodel, I was able to find space for them in my home office. So now as I sit at my desk each day, I’m reminded of the artists who inspired me and led me on my musical path. Some have held up well over the years like Dire Straits, Queen, Stevie Ray Vaughan, REM, the Rolling Stones, and the Eagles. Some not so much (seriously? the Surf Punks?) Either way, one of the upsides of working from home is the inspiration I still get from the music of my youth.
Not that work doesn’t fully occupy my head and heart these days. Let me share what I’m keeping an eye on with regards to Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center and our entire arts community. I’m pleased to see that there are indicators that people do miss the live experience of the arts and do intend to come back when they can. Some things may change how an Arts organization operates but, in general, there is a desire and an intent to reconnect with those things which celebrate what makes us human. Spaces that allow greater personal distance such as museums and outdoor experiences will likely see the earliest return to participation. Indoor spaces will be a little later, but eventually there will be a tipping point when crowds are able to reach a certain size.
At the Bankhead Theater and Bothwell Arts Center, we await guidance from the county with regards to opening and will be sure to operate under any required guidelines to insure the safety of our patrons, volunteers, staff and performers. While we don’t know when that will be, I believe we will have a much clearer picture by the end of April.
Work also provides me with inspiration. One of my goals is to find ways to promote the talents of emerging and local artists. The Bankhead Theater calendar is quite full in the coming months, but as it opens up I want to work towards this goal and I’d love to hear from you. What performances have inspired you? How could we bring those artists or similar artists here? Are there new or local artists you’re particularly excited about?
I believe Art can heal the heart and feed the soul. As we emerge from this period of isolation, let’s make sure the Arts play a role in healing our community, while supporting gifted and inspiring artists at the same time.
APRIL 6, 2020
Even during this difficult time, I am constantly finding encouragement in unlikely places. Yesterday, I had a Zoom meeting with a few friends from my high school days, some I haven’t talked to since then. It’s always interesting to hear what people remember, and I was reminded how our home was a gathering space for my friends, even when I wasn’t there. Then I was told how much that meant to some people who needed it. The truth is, we all need connection (even us introverts), and the industries that are unable to operate right now serve as important connectors for all of us. The Arts is one of many entertainment industries such as restaurants, hospitality, travel and more. I have been closely monitoring the current climate in the performing arts, and here are some current realities that we are dealing with.
First of all, the primary source of income for performing artists is revenue from live shows and the secondary source is typically music royalties. Royalties are also important for songwriters and publishers. The first source of revenue is currently unavailable, and what people may not realize is that royalties are also in jeopardy because a large portion also comes from currently closed live venues like the Bankhead Theater, along with restaurants, hotels and any other place you might hear music. Most musicians and songwriters will likely start to see a delay and drop in their royalty payments as well.
In regards to the future of our spaces, my hope is that we will be able to open the Bankhead and Bothwell again as soon as possible, but it is more likely that, as the world begins to open up again, large gathering spaces and venues will be the last to do so. Smaller spaces like ours could be ready sooner than larger venues, but it is still unclear at this moment.
With the help of Fremont Bank, Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center has submitted an application for a Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster relief loan as well as a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan through the CARES Act. These would allow us to keep our staff at their regular pay and help cover other operating expenses that don’t go away even while we are closed. Even with all that in place, we will still need your help so please continue to support the arts where you can. Become a member, make a donation, buy a ticket for a future performance, and buy some new music to support artists.
Now for the silver lining. While all these wonderful performers and artists may be spending time at home, they are always creative. I look forward to hearing all the great work they are very likely writing at this very moment. I predict that the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021 will see a massive wave of new and meaningful music, and I’m anxiously waiting to hear what comes out of this time. Until then, please stay safe and healthy so we can all enjoy it together.
MARCH 30, 2020
As I was going on my daily walk with my wife through downtown Pleasanton this afternoon, we came across a home off Main Street where a man was playing guitar along with a track through a sound system on his front porch. It was my first taste of live music in over three weeks, and for someone who runs a performing arts center, that’s saying something. It felt so uplifting and reminded me why the arts can be so powerful. Even in the most difficult of times, art can carry you to a better place and a better state of mind.
I’ve been working at Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center since 2014. I say work, but it’s truly been the most rewarding endeavor I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of. This past February, I was appointed to my dream role as Executive Director. There were so many things I wanted to do, so much I had planned, the challenge was figuring out where to start. But then, just a few weeks into my tenure, the bottom dropped out.
On Thursday, March 12, after serious conversations with our senior staff and the executive committee of the board of directors, I had to make the difficult decision to close the Bankhead Theater and Bothwell Arts Center and cancel all events through the end of the month. The next day, Friday the 13th, I had to inform most of the staff that they would not be working for the foreseeable future. This was devastating news for everyone, but I am determined to make sure we do our part to slow the spread of this virus.
If that was the bad news, the good news is that we have seen great support from our community in helping us weather this event. Since announcing the closure three weeks ago, we have received over $200,000 in donations, pledge payments and commitments. Our bank, Fremont Bank, has been extremely supportive in assisting us with our line of credit and offering to help with an emergency SBA (Small Business Administration) loan. We have applied for disaster relief through the SBA loan and will continue to seek alternative sources of revenue.
We are deeply appreciative of the people who have come forward to help us out. There are many ways you can help keep the arts going in our community.
— If you have tickets to an event that has been cancelled or you can no longer attend, please consider donating them back to the Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center. Our venues serve as home for many resident companies who will also be struggling. If the ticket was for a resident company performance, we will use donations from those tickets to support their future performances.
— You can also purchase tickets now for performances that moved to or were already planned for this summer and fall. Later this spring, we’ll announce all the exciting shows we have planned for the 2020-2021 season and tickets for those will go on sale.
— Last but not least, you can become a member or renew your membership today. You’ll receive discounts and other benefits throughout the year, while helping make our success possible.
We so greatly appreciate your support – a performing arts center does not exist without an audience. I will continue to write a weekly update for the community on how I see things going. Please feel free to check in with me at any time, I look forward to hearing from our wonderful patrons. In the meantime, please stay safe and healthy.