Call to Action: #SupportVisualArtsON

Published June 11, 2021


Art galleries and museums in Ontario have spent almost all of 2021 with their doors closed to the public. During this time, they have worked diligently to develop and detail customized COVID-19 protocols. From our membership survey, over 85% of Galeries Ontario / Ontario Galleries member art galleries and museums are prepared and ready to reopen during Stage 2. They have developed comprehensive reopening strategies with detailed policies, practices and training for their respective staffs in the hopes of opening to the public soon. Their number one priority is the health and safety of the staff, arts workers, and visitors all across Ontario and Canada. 

Ontario’s recently announced “Roadmap to Reopen” once again delays the opening of the galleries and museum doors to the public, accompanied by unclear protocols and rules. Galleries and museums’ ability to plan for the future and use their spaces for programming, exhibitions and other educational opportunities are limited. 

Film and TV production has long been able to resume adhering to strict COVID-19 safety protocols. Outdoor amenities have reopened recently, with safety requirements firmly in place. Libraries have been given clear protocols on how and when they can open. Even indoor non-essential retail can open at 15% capacity in Stage 1. However, even with no known linkages to COVID outbreaks in Canada, art galleries, museums and other arts organizations have been left behind by the government and cannot open until Stage 3.  

Art galleries and museums should be classified as low-risk venues, as they can easily enforce social distancing, capacity limits, masking and contact tracings and limited touch contact points. Art galleries and museums are better-positioned safety-wise than most indoor public spaces because of their excellent sanitation and maintenance protocols. Most institutions, because of their significant square footage, allow their visitors to practice social distancing easily. 

Ontario’s art galleries and museums are spaces that are safe, engaging and inspiring. They employ thousands of people in many professions, including educators, artists, curators, cultural professionals, electricians, security guards, building engineers, conservators, and researchers.

Galleries and museums are ready to open in Step 2 of the framework safely. The decision not to include them is not based on evidence, nor have we received rationales why these decisions were made. These continued restrictions do not reflect regulatory fairness with other, similar industries and threaten Ontario’s visual arts sectoral survival. In the absence of a proactive recovery strategy, the visual arts sector will not survive, which will negatively impact the economy, levels of innovation, citizen well-being and the vibrancy and diversity of communities. 

Galeries Ontario / Ontario Galleries, along with other sector groups, have repeatedly advocated the government to consult, educate and demonstrate how we work, how we can and will keep people safe, and highlight what is a stalk; economically, culturally and socially.

#SupportVisualArtsON is a collective ask for fairness and action to support art galleries and museums to reopen in Step 2 of the Framework with percentage-based capacity limits and other restrictions.

We have 3 critical recommendations for art galleries and museums:

  • Outline precise percentage-based capacities indoors and social distancing–based capacities outdoors for ALL STEPS of the plan and communicate them well ahead of time in order to aid organizations in their reopening planning.  
  • Allow galleries and museums to reopen with percentage-based capacity limits for indoor use and other restrictions for Step 2 of the framework since they are low-risk venues. 
  • Allow galleries and museums to open for special events and venue rentals with percentage-based capacities limits and other restrictions for Step 2. 

The visual arts are being left behind as they were the first to close, and they will be the last to open if no changes are made.  If you agree that Visual Arts need to be treated fairly and be allowed to reopen in Step Two of the Provincial Framework, please amplify this message.

To join us TODAY until June 23rd, 2021, in advocating for the fair reopening of visuals arts in the Ontario Reopening framework, we ask you:

  1. Go to our Google drive folder [HERE] for a template letter for you to send to your local leaders and representatives. 
  2. Create a post on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
    1. Upload the #SupportVisualArtsON logo to your post. [HERE]
    2. Add the #SupportVisualArtsON hashtag
    3. Unsure what to say? Find the #SupportVisualArtsON Social media copy or customize it, adding your own personal touch including the three key changes for reopening., [HERE]
    4. Tag: 
      1. Doug Ford – fb: ondougford tw: @fordnation ig: @fordnationdougford
      2. Christine Elliott – fb: ChristineElliottON tw: @celliottability ig: @celliottability
      3. Lisa MacLeod – fb: LisaMacLeodNepean tw: @MacLeodLisa ig: @lisamacleodpc
      4. Victor-Fedeli – fb: @vicfedeli tw: @VictorFedeli ig: @vicfedeli

The visual arts are being left behind as they were the first to close, and they will be the last to open if no changes are made.  Thank you for your support of this important initiative!