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Events, Arts & Culture

This playbook provides guidance to organizations in Greater Des Moines (DSM) working in the arts, culture, heritage, entertainment, event planning and related industries.

Sample: Community Concert Risk Profile


The sample risk profile has been determined for community concerts in DSM. The profile shows frequency, or how many people in a day; duration, or length of typical interaction; and variety, or the number of different people.*

Current Impact

Future Trends

Recommended Practices

Community Partnerships

Additional Resources

Current Impacts

The coronavirus epidemic has had a significant impact on the arts, music, entertainment, heritage organizations and cultural events. Trade group Pollstar has projected the live-music industry could lose up to $9 billion by the end of 2020 if quarantine measures stay in place and concerts continue to get cancelled and postponed. According to survey data from Americans for the Arts, the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the arts and culture sector has mounted to $4.98 billion by the end of April. In Iowa, 288 arts and culture organizations across the state have reported a total negative financial impact of $11.6 million due to closures, cancellations and increased expenses, an average of $15,750 per organization. Nearly all organizations have had to cancel events, suffering a total drop in attendance of more than 1.3 million people. Individual artists and creative workers are also feeling the effects. Survey data from Artist Relief and Americans for the Arts revealed that 62% of individual artists have become fully unemployed because of COVID-19 and 95% have experienced income loss, with an average decline in estimated income for the year of $27,103.

Future Trends

Live-Streamed Performances

Artists around the world are adapting to shutdowns by swapping physical performance spaces for online concerts.

Virtual Engagement

Arts and culture institutions are offering virtual programming, activities, tours and exhibitions. Artists, musicians and dance studios are offering virtual lessons.

Generosity of Patrons

With exhibition and performance spaces shuttered, artists are relying on the generosity of patrons. Fans can donate directly to PayPal, Venmo, Cash app or Patreon accounts. Many artists are including links to virtual tip jars at their live-streamed performances. E-commerce channels like Bandcamp, Gumroad and Shopify also offer fans the opportunity to buy music and merch directly from artists.

Recommended Practices

Health & Sanitation

  • Conduct a health screening with all employees before their shifts in accordance with the most up to date recommendations from the local public health department.
  • Encourage or require employees to wear face masks and employ any other PPE in accordance with the most up to date recommendations from the local public health department.
  • Gloves should be worn to handle cash, tickets, food and drinks, etc.
  • Establish health screening protocols for attendees, such as temperature taking or a health screening survey at security checkpoints.
  • Encourage or require guests to wear masks.
  • Require employees to comply with guidelines on sanitation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Iowa Department of Public Health.
  • Regularly and frequently clean and disinfect any regularly touched surfaces, such as counters, payment stations, railings, doorknobs, tables, chairs, restrooms, etc.
  • Disinfect any items that come into contact with visitors. 
  • Make hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, soap and water or similar disinfectant readily available to employees and visitors at all points of ingress and other well-marked locations throughout the venue.
  • Provide accommodations for event staff and participants who are at increased risk for complications from COVID-19, such as reassigning duties or providing refunds.

Process & Space Modifications

  • Adopt capacity limits based on State requirements.
  • Encourage visitors to purchase tickets over the phone or online. Utilize contactless payment options, if available. For on-site ticket purchase and pickup, will call and box office windows should have a clear protective shield. Patron distancing can be preserved by opening fewer windows and marking appropriate queuing space.
  • Include timed tickets for entry.
  • Ensure that guests are practicing physical distancing by standing at least six feet away from other groups of people not traveling with them while standing in lines, using elevators, moving around the property or when seated.
  • Families or those who have quarantined together may play together. Groups cannot intermingle.
  • Use barriers like protective panels to maintain distance between staff and visitors.
  • For cultural institutions, like museums and zoos, establish one-way flow through the venue with visual cues, to facilitate distancing.
  • Art museums may consider removing wall labels and directing people to a mobile app or making the wall label text larger to limit visitors from congregating.
  • For venues with seating, such as movie theaters, indoor concert halls, and sports stadiums, offer seating in a staggered manner such that there is six feet of spacing between customer groups. This could include assigning seats with several empty seats in between or offering seating in every other row.
  • In a hybrid setting of digital and onsite attendees, remember to incorporate design elements for the virtual audience who have lost two senses, touch and taste.
  • Follow restaurant guidelines for any food and beverage service areas.
  • Regularly and frequently clean and disinfect any regularly touched surfaces, such as counters, payment stations, railings, doorknobs, tables, chairs, restrooms, etc.
  • Disinfect any items that come into contact with visitors. 
  • Stagger staff schedules.
  • Make hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, soap and water, or similar disinfectant readily available to employees and visitors.

Mass Gatherings and Large Community Events Require Additional Considerations

At Minimal-to-Moderate Level of Community Transmission, It Is Recommended To:

  • Limit the size of any one event to the maximum number of people permitted under updated public guidelines, for example, no more than ten people, keeping in mind any health considerations related to your expected audience.
  • At substantial level of community transmission, it is recommended to cancel mass gatherings of any size.

Review the Existing Emergency Operations Plans for Your Venues:

  • Meet with the emergency operations coordinator or planning team at your venues.
  • Establish relationships with key community partners and stakeholders.

Address Key Prevention Strategies in Your Emergency Operations Plan:

  • Promote good hygiene health practices.
  • Provide COVID-19 prevention supplies to staff and participants.
  • Identify a space that can be used to isolate staff or participants who become ill at an event.
  • Limit in-person contact for staff supporting your events.
  • Develop flexible refund policies for participants.
  • Identify actions to take if you need to postpone or cancel events.

Consider Additional Health and Safety Measures:

  • Sell seats to minimize impact and distance at outdoor music venues.
  • Reduce events with lawn seating by introducing zones where members of the same party can interact but allow for spacing between groups.
  • Use cashless entry systems.
  • Implement touchless thermal screening for employees, musicians and visitors.
  • Require masks by everyone. 
  • Restroom attendants should clean hourly; ask everyone to hand sanitize prior to entering a stall and wash hands and sanitize after leaving a stall.
  • Use barricades and fencing to manage crowds and establish maximum crowd capacity.
  • Have additional hand-washing/sanitization stations.
  • Limit alcohol sales.
  • Consider allowing personal foods in the gate to limit concession needs.
  • Limit gate/admissions at festivals.
  • Allow presale tickets only.
  • Time entries to avoid overcrowding at entrances.
  • Require exhibitors to have sanitizing lotion.
  • Reconsider any free non-ticketed events for 2020.


  • Communicate proactively with the public about new health and safety measures. Share these protocols through pre-event communication, on your website and throughout the venue. 
  • Post signage at the entrance that states that no one with a fever or symptoms of COVID-19 is to be permitted in the venue/at the event.
  • Place readily visible signage at the facility to remind everyone of best hygiene practices.

Community Partnerships

Connecting with Audiences

Des Moines Art Center

The Des Moines Art Center launched virtual tours of the permanent collections and special exhibitions in partnership with EMC Insurance Companies. The tours allow visitors to click through the extensive collections as if they were at the museum walking through the galleries.

Des Moines Performing Arts

The Des Moines Performing Arts (DMPA) is working to continue to bring people together to create a sense of connection and share the love of the arts and culture with #projectjoy. DMPA will share various forms of content, including playlists, so music lovers can listen while working from home or for children to enjoy while away from their classrooms, across its social media channels.

Des Moines Symphony Orchestra

The Des Moines Symphony Orchestra (DMSO) launched “DMSO at Home”. It includes regularly self-produced videos from musicians; a weekly score study series with Music Director & Conductor Joseph Giunta; and “mini-concerts” streamed from the homes of Orchestra musicians and broadcast live on Facebook.

Civic Music Association

The Civic Music Association is presenting informal at-home concerts on Fridays at 6 p.m. via Facebook Live to help viewers unwind from the week and get ready for the weekend.


DSMTV Live is Des Moines’ newest online streaming platform. It provides fans with live web-based video broadcasts of musicians and artists in DSM.


Similarly, Noce jazz club is turning people's own living rooms into their own private cabarets. The club now holds regularly scheduled live virtual concerts, typically on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Ballet Des Moines

Recently, Ballet Des Moines collaborated with Noce for Iowa Public Radio's weekly live-streamed concert series: IPR Tunesday. Company dancers performed "Come Fly with Me" live to the music of the Max Wellman Quartet.

Des Moines Metro Opera

Des Moines Metro Opera is teaming up with Iowa PBS to share online and television presentations of its recent productions of Billy BuddRusalkaManonLe Comte Ory and Bon Appétit! These broadcasts will serve as the centerpieces of DMMO’s transformed 2020 Virtual Festival and will be supplemented by artist recitals, cast reunions, interviews, prelude talks, and digital versions of annual DMMO events.

City Voices Des Moines

City Voices Des Moines is offering viewers short lessons through a new video series, QuaranTunes, which features City Voices teachers and other local artists. Viewers can also live-stream music on City Voices’ Facebook page and social media. A different artist is featured every week. 

ArtForce Iowa

ArtForce Iowa is offering virtual art workshops, or “ArtFul Connections,” on their Facebook page. At these workshops, local artists teach easy and fun art activities using materials available at home.  

Art Week Des Moines

Art Week Des Moines is still proceeding virtually with some amazing activities the week before the Arts Festival. 

Iowa Architectural Society & Pyramid Theatre

Iowa Architectural Society and Pyramid Theatre are planning a virtual event to celebrate the reopening of the Edna M. Griffin building. 

Iowa Events Center

Iowa Events Center is working to publicize and support local musicians and bands who are hosting live streaming concerts right now through their #VirtualStageDSM initiative. As part of the initiative local artists can go to IowaEventsCenter.com to fill out a form with their upcoming virtual performances to be included on a calendar that promotes the performance as well as the artists’ website, Venmo and PayPal accounts. Each Monday at 7 p.m. a different local artist does a takeover of the Wells Fargo Arena Instagram and Facebook Live for a live streaming performance for Local Music Mondays.

Helping Communities

West Des Moines' The Vinyl Studio partnered with local businesses and artists to sell a $1 downloadable coloring book, called “Color for a Cause,” with proceeds going to the Food Bank of Iowa. The artists include Laura Todd, Doe a Deer, Jenna Brownlee, Henna by Maggie and Once Upon a Tee Shirt. The businesses each have a page in the book, and include the studio, Bozz Prints, Martin's Flag Company, Wildflower and the AdelmanDean Group.

Additional Resources

Recommended Playbooks

The business function playbooks include takeaways that are specific to professional functions that could be present in any business, regardless of industry.

*We note that these assessments are qualitative and based on expert-led judgment (Johns Hopkins, 2020). Currently, there are not enough detailed data available to enable quantitative risk stratification. Businesses will need to make decisions about re-initiating business activities before there are validated data to know the precise levels of risk.

Legal Disclaimer

The Greater Des Moines Partnership's DSM Forward playbook is not intended to constitute legal advice or provide specific direction. The preparation of a business continuity or preparations plan should be undertaken with the advice and direction of appropriate specialists and personnel, in consideration of the unique circumstances impacting each business. Third-party websites or material linked to or referenced in DSM Forward are for informational purposes only and do not constitute a recommendation of The Partnership of that material or its authors.

Last updated: 5/11/2020