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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

Events Risk Profile Frequency

Events Risk Profile Duration

Events Risk Profile Variety


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 

Current Impact

Future Trends 

Future Trends

Recommended Practices 

Recommended Practices

Community Partnership 

Community Partnerships

Additional Resources 

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, as of August, the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the arts and culture sector has mounted to $10.2 billion. In Iowa, 322 arts and culture organizations across the state have reported a total negative financial impact of $31.2 million due to closures, cancellations and increased expenses, an average of $16,750 per organization. Nearly all organizations have had to cancel events, suffering a total drop in attendance of more than 2.8 million people. Individual artists and creative workers are also feeling the effects. Survey data from Artist Relief and Americans for the Arts revealed that as of August, 62% of individual artists have become fully unemployed because of COVID-19 and 94% have experienced income loss, with an average decline in estimated income for the year of roughly $22,000.

Future Trends

Events and Performances

Live-Streamed Performances

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

Events Virtual Engagement

Virtual Engagement

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

Events Donations

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

  • Ensure gatherings or events comply with state requirements.
    • Until 11:59 p.m. on December 10, 2020, indoor gatherings or events of more than 15 people who are not of the same household are prohibited.
    • Outdoor gatherings of more than 30 people who are not of the same household are prohibited.
  • 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 employees who feel sick to stay home. Employees who have had close contact with someone with COVID-19 should take precautions, including self-quarantine, in accordance with CDC guidance.
  • Advise attendees prior to coming to the event or venue they should not attend if they have symptoms of, a positive test for or were recently exposed (within 14 days) to COVID-19.
  • Establish health screening protocols for attendees, such as temperature taking or health screening survey at entry or security checkpoints.
  • Have a plan to isolate and transport staff and attendees with COVID-19 symptoms.
  • 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, trash, etc. After using disposable gloves, throw them out in a lined trash can. Do not disinfect or reuse gloves. Wash hands after removing gloves.
  • Train all employees on appropriate cleaning and disinfection, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette. If possible, conduct training virtually.
  • 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.
  • Develop a schedule for increased, routine cleaning and disinfection.
  • Ensure safe and correct use and storage of cleaners and disinfectants to avoid harm to employees and other individuals. Cleaning products should not be used near children. Staff should ensure that there is adequate ventilation when using these products to prevent attendees or themselves from inhaling toxic vapors.
  • 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 or offering virtual attendance options.

Event Safety

Process & Space Modifications

  • 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.
  • Consider developing flexible refund policies for attendees for events that involve a participation fee.
  • 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.
  • Movie theaters and performance venues should reconfigure, close or remove seats to ensure physical distancing of at least six feet between each group or individual attending alone when seated in the theater.
  • Whenever possible, workers should leave at least six feet to the person closest to them. Where a task cannot be accomplished working alone, workers can limit their exposure by forming a work team in which people routinely work together, but they keep their distance from everyone else.
  • Provide floor markings to help customers stay six feet apart in concession lines and other areas where people gather, including if they are waiting outdoors due to limits on indoor capacity. NOTE: Download a DSM Forward wait marker template.
  • Clearly mark designated entry and exit points.
  • Interactive exhibits (touch and feel exhibits, play areas) may be closed or modified to help maintain best practices for health and safety.
  • Families or those who have quarantined together may play together. Groups cannot intermingle.
  • 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.
  • At sporting events, display signs to discourage handshakes, fist bumps and high-fives.
  • 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.
  • Ensure ventilation systems operate properly and increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible, for example, by opening windows and doors. Do not open windows and doors if doing so poses a safety or health risk to staff or attendees (e.g., risk of falling or triggering asthma symptoms).
  • If portable ventilation equipment like fans are used, take steps to minimize air from them blowing from one person directly at another person to reduce the potential spread of any airborne or aerosolized viruses.
  • To minimize the risk of Legionnaires' disease and other diseases associated with water, take steps to ensure that all water systems and features (e.g., sink faucets, drinking fountains, decorative fountains) are safe to use after a prolonged facility shutdown.
  • Follow restaurant guidelines for any food and beverage service areas.
  • Encourage employees to work from home, if possible.
  • Stagger staff schedules and breaks.
  • Monitor absenteeism of employees, cross-train staff and create a roster of trained back-up staff.
  • Encourage employees to use transportation options that minimize close contact with others. Consider allowing employees to shift their hours so they can commute during less busy times.
  • Reconfigure parking lots to limit congregation points and ensure proper separation of employees.
  • Require or recommend that attendees leave their dogs at home in order to limit co-mingling with people or other animals outside the household. If dogs are permitted at an outdoor event, remind guests to keep their dogs on a leash and maintain social distance from other people and animals. Persons with disabilities have the right to be accompanied by their service animals on-site.
  • 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

  • The more people an individual interacts with at a gathering and the longer that interaction lasts, the higher the potential risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 and COVID-19 spreading.
  • The higher the level of community transmission in the area that the gathering is being held, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spreading during a gathering.
  • The size of an event or gathering should be determined based on state, local, territorial or tribal safety laws and regulations.

The Risk of COVID-19 Spreading at Events and Gatherings Increases as Follows:

  • Lowest Risk: Virtual-only activities, events and gatherings.
  • More Risk: Smaller outdoor and in-person gatherings in which individuals from different households remain spaced at least six feet apart, wear cloth face coverings, do not share objects and come from the same local area (e.g., community, town, city or county).
  • Higher Risk: Medium-sized in-person gatherings that are adapted to allow individuals to remain spaced at least six feet apart and with attendees coming from outside the local area.
  • Highest Risk: Large in-person gatherings where it is difficult for individuals to remain spaced at least six feet apart and attendees travel from outside the local area. 

Additional Health and Safety Measures at Mass Gatherings:

  • Check local requirements regarding any capacity limits for mass gatherings.
  • Consider limiting event attendance to staff and guests who live in the local area (e.g., community, city, town or county) to reduce risk of spreading the virus from areas with higher levels of COVID-19. If attendance is open to staff and guests from other communities, cities, town or counties, provide information to attendees so they can make an informed decision about participation.
  • Mass gathering organizers must ensure at least six feet of physical distance between each group or individual attending alone.
  • Sell seats to minimize impact and distance.
  • Allow presale tickets only. Time entries to avoid overcrowding at entrances.
  • Reconsider any free non-ticketed events for 2020.
  • Use barricades and fencing to manage crowds and establish maximum crowd capacity.
  • Reduce events with lawn seating by introducing zones where members of the same party can interact but allow for spacing between groups.
  • For venues with seating, such as 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 assigned seats with several empty seats in between or offering seating in every other row.
  • At general admission events, patrons cannot all stand at the front of the stage like they are accustomed; moshing and crowd surfing must be absolutely prohibited; and hallways and smoking areas where patrons congregate will have to be monitored. To remind patrons of social distancing: use tape, spray chalk, survey flags and cones to mark six feet of separation; use rope barriers and stanchions or bike racks to physically separate patrons; and have workers patrol open areas to provide information, enforce rules and model healthy behavior.
  • Musician performance space, including on stage and in orchestra pits, should be arranged to maximize social distancing while allowing at least some musicians to perform together.
  • Implement touchless thermal screening for employees, musicians and visitors.
  • Require masks by everyone.
  • Electronic tickets can be scanned by ticket-takers wearing face coverings and gloves, or patrons could check themselves in at self-service kiosks outside the health and security screening areas.
  • Consider having a small clear bag policy in which patrons open their own bags for inspection in order to avoid touching patron personal items. Alternatively, prohibit bags (except when necessary for medicine or personal hygiene products).
  • If a patron activates the magnetometer or hand wand at security, any worker conducting a pat-down search must wear a face covering and gloves and have access to a wash and sanitization station. Venues may consider denying admission to patrons who repeatedly activate the magnetometer rather than putting hands on patrons.
  • Restroom attendants should clean and disinfect regularly, particularly high-touch surfaces such as faucets, toilets, stall doors, doorknobs, countertops, diaper changing tables and light switches.
  • Ask everyone to hand sanitize prior to entering a stall and wash hands and sanitize after leaving a stall.
  • Ensure restrooms remain adequately stocked with supplies for handwashing throughout the duration of the event.
  • Workers should limit occupancy of restrooms to preserve appropriate space between patrons and to ensure an easily discernible line to avoid conflict about where the line begins. It may be helpful to post signs or markers to help attendees maintain the appropriate social distance of at least six feet.
  • Have additional hand-washing/sanitization stations. If possible, provide hand sanitizer stations that are touch-free.
  • Require exhibitors to have sanitizing lotion.
  • Drinking fountains should be cleaned and sanitized, but encourage staff and attendees to bring their own water, as feasible, to minimize touching and use of water fountains. Consider closing areas such as drinking fountains that cannot be adequately cleaned and disinfected during an event.
  • After events that have a definite end (such as concerts), patrons nearest the exits should leave first, by row or section, in order to clear space further inside to follow. Coordinate with public health and safety officials to evaluate emergency evacuation plans.
  • Intermission should follow the same patterns as egress procedures. For those who choose to get up, they will have to be let out from back to front, and patrons will not be allowed to congregate inside or outside restrooms or near lobby concession stands. Intermissions may have to be longer to allow time for socially distanced patron movement or shows will have to be shorter with no intermission.
  • New health screening measures may require new accommodations for persons with disabilities. An event space that reduces points of ingress or egress must ensure continued accessibility. Venues that temporarily reduce capacity should confirm that they still offer enough accessible seating, including companion seats, to comply with disability laws. Patrons whose disability makes them unable to wait in a longline may need a more expedited access procedure.
  • At venues where there is food and beverage table service, menus can be posted electronically or printed on single-use paper to avoid transmitting germs or reusable plastic menus. Electronic ordering can be encouraged using QR codes for each menu item. In lieu of being served by waitstaff, patrons can be notified by text when their order is placed at a designated pick-up area, creating a touchless service experience that also avoids crowds of patrons waiting for their food.
  • At a concession stand, the number of counter staff should be limited consistent with social distancing. Workers should place food and beverages on the table, counter or other surface rather than handling purchases directly to patrons. Provide physical guides, such as tape on floors or sidewalks and signs on walls, to ensure that individuals remain at least six feet apart when waiting in line to order or pick up.
  • Where practicable, physical barriers such as clear plastic partitions should be installed at registers.
  • Point of Sale Terminals should be assigned to one worker where possible, and they should be sanitized between each user and before and after each shift. If multiple servers are assigned to a terminal, then servers should sanitize their hands after each use. Workers who handle money should wear gloves and should not serve food or beverages. Where a point of sale system requires a signature or entry of a PIN, a disposable wooden stylus may allow a touchless transaction. Ask customers and employees to exchange cash or card payments by placing them on a receipt tray or on the counter rather than by hand to avoid direct hand-to-hand contact.
  • Bartenders should model safe behavior by wearing a face covering and gloves when they are behind the bar. Garnishes should be prepared in a central location like the kitchen and provided with tongs to bartenders, or they should be eliminated entirely. Patrons should hold their own identification for bartender inspection. If a worker must handle a patron’s ID, the worker should then dispose of their gloves and wash their hands before resuming service. 
  • Dining tables, bar tops, stools and chairs should be positioned to allow for social distancing and sanitized after each use. 
  • Trays and tray stands should be sanitized after each use or eliminated entirely in favor of individually packaged food and beverages placed inside paper bags bearing the patron’s name for easy pick-up.
  • High touch food and beverage service items should be sanitized frequently.
  • To replace individual eating utensils, patrons can be provided prewrapped cutlery, straws and stirrers, or they can take what they need from individual item dispensers such as Smartstock.
  • Formerly self-service fountain drinks can be replaced with bottled beverages.
  • Condiments should be served with food orders or only at patrons’ request, in disposable single-use packages or containers that can be sanitized after each use. Open condiment service buffets should not be used.
  • Discourage people from sharing items that are difficult to clean, sanitize or disinfect.
  • Limit any sharing of food, tools, equipment or supplies by staff members.
  • Ensure adequate supplies to minimize sharing of high-touch materials to the extent possible; otherwise, limit use of supplies and equipment to one group of staff members or attendees at a time, and clean and disinfect them between use.
  • With sanitary food and beverage practices resulting in additional trash and recyclable material, dispose of trash more regularly.
  • If possible, send patrons away from the food and beverage area in a different direction than the way they entered. 
  • Consider limiting alcohol sales.
  • Consider allowing personal foods in the gate to limit concession needs.
  • Merchandise can be posted on a website or event app that allows for mobile ordering and on-site pickup.
  • Mark merchandise sales lines on floor, with barricade or rope and stanchion, patrolled by guest services workers to provide information and enforce social distancing.
  • Only workers may touch items for sale. No trying on merchandise.
  • No returns or exchanges. All sales are final.
  • Merchandise sellers must be spaced far enough from each other so patrons can wait in line while maintaining social distance and not block access for pedestrians passing by.
  • As soon as vendors begin to load in, high-touch surfaces and objects in public areas, restrooms, back of house offices, dressing areas, green rooms, productions areas and back of house kitchen and food preparation areas should be regularly disinfected.
  • Production equipment and cargo should be sanitized when loaded at the warehouse and unloaded at the venue. In addition to face coverings, workers should wear gloves when handling equipment and cargo to prevent surface contamination.
  • Social distancing applies to production crew working in confined spaces, such as inside trailers. Workers should always wear face coverings and gloves when those do not interfere with essential work functions, particularly when they cannot maintain social distance. 
  • High-touch equipment such as motor controllers, microphones, mic stands, presentation remotes and audio/video cable should be sanitized frequently, and equipment should be dedicated to individual users where possible.
  • Heavy equipment such as forklifts, boom lifts and scissor lifts should minimize the number of operators of each piece of equipment where feasible and sanitize between use.
  • Delivery truck drivers should not leave their cab during offloading unless they receive the same screening and follow the same health procedures as other workers. To the extent possible, deliveries should be scheduled in shifts to minimize the time workers load or unload close together. Workers unloading deliveries should change their gloves and wash their hands between each delivery.
  • Ground transportation drives should undergo the same screening for temperature or infection as other workers. 
  • Social distancing should be enforced in buses, vans and other ground transportation to the extent possible.
  • Passengers should wear face coverings and gloves while riding, and wash hands or use hand sanitizer after leaving the vehicle.
  • Transportation providers should disinfect the passenger compartment after every trip, including all hard surfaces, seats, headrests, seatbelts, seatbelt buckles and armrests. Additional time between trips must be reserved for this process.
  • Touring productions and venue operators will have to decide which party is responsible for various tasks and behaviors related to health and safety.
  • After the event, meet with the emergency operations coordinator or planning team for your venue to discuss and note lessons learned. Determine ways to improve planning and implementation processes if the event will happen again. Update your plans regularly according to the state and local situation and orders.

Event Facilities


  • Communicate proactively with staff and the public about new health and safety measures. Share these protocols through pre-event communication, on your website, social media channels and mobile apps and throughout the venue.
  • Tickets purchasing sites should also link to health and safety rules. Online ticket purchases can require patrons to check a box affirming that they have read and agree to comply with posted rules.
  • Include messages about behaviors that prevent the spread of COVID-19 when communicating with staff, vendors and attendees.
  • 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 social distancing and best hygiene practices.
  • Broadcast regular announcement on reducing the spread of COVID-19 on public address systems.
  • Artists and performers can use their authority with attendees to remind them that only their full compliance allows the show to go on.
  • Identify and address potential language, cultural and disability barriers associated with communicating COVID-19 information to event staff and participants. Tailor information so that it is easily understood by various audiences and is available in alternative formats and languages.
  • Designate an administrator or office to be responsible for responding to COVID-19 concerns. All staff and attendees should know who this person or office is and how to contact them.

Event Communication

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. In addition, as part of a new initiative to provide free livestreamed concert access to community and nonprofit organizations, as well as free streaming passes for teachers and healthcare workers, DMSO is broadcasting three concerts online as part of its virtual fall season, Live from the Temple, on Oct. 1, Nov. 12 and Dec. 17. Nonprofits and community organizations can apply for free access to share the Symphony's livestreamed concerts with the communities they serve. All teachers and healthcare workers are eligible for complimentary streaming passes to access a DMSO livestreamed concert of their choice. More details, along with full instructions on requesting access, can be found on the DMSO website.

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

Gov. Kim Reynolds has allocated $7 million of federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs to provide economic relief to Iowa's arts and culture industry. Nonprofit arts and cultural organizations, for-profit music venues, governmental and college/university cultural venues and individual artists whose regular operations have been interrupted due to the pandemic may apply until Dec. 11, 2020. More information can be found here.

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.

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*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: 12/8/2020