Calgary-based Arts Commons is implementing a new vaccination policy, and hoping to mark a return to in-person events as new health measures roll out to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Starting Sept. 20, Arts Commons will require audience members to show proof of vaccination. Those who cannot be vaccinated can show a negative privately-bought COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours.
"We are trying to slowly crawl our way out of what has been a very difficult year for the arts and culture sector," says Alex Sarian, president and CEO of Arts Commons.
"There were a lot of moments of potential hope … we found ourselves as arts companies going back and forth between wanting to program, starting to plan to program and then having to shutdown again," he said.
Arts Commons includes six companies — Alberta Theatre Projects, Arts Commons Presents, Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Downstage, One Yellow Rabbit and Theatre Calgary.
Premier Jason Kenney announced new measures to combat the COVID-19 surge Wednesday, including a proof of vaccination program called the restriction exemption program.
There are now more than 18,000 active cases in Alberta — the most of any province.
Arts Commons says they will still have a mask policy in place, and will keep venues under capacity to allow for distancing. Children younger than 12 years old, who are not yet eligible for the vaccine, will not need a negative COVID test.
"I like to think that we're not going to see a lot of pushback, but we're certainly preparing for it," Sarian said.
"We all feel this sense of collective responsibility toward our audiences, but also leading by example.… My hope and my expectation in any of the venues is that we're going to see a willingness of audiences to show documentation, and a lot of that will have to do with communication upfront."
In addition to audience vaccination, staff will also be vaccinated, Sarian says. Staff will also be trained in how to check vaccination records, and will have additional security staff at venues.