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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 estimates that the total lost revenue for the live music industry in 2020 to be at more than $30 billion. According to survey data from Americans for the Arts, one year after the onset of the pandemic, the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the arts and culture sector had mounted to $15.2 billion. In Iowa, 369 arts and culture organizations across the state have reported a total negative financial impact of $44.6 million due to closures, cancellations and increased expenses. Individual artists and creative workers are also feeling the effects. Survey data from Artist Relief and Americans for the Arts reveal that 63% of individual artists have become fully unemployed because of COVID-19 and 94% have experienced income loss.

Future Trends

Events and Performances

Live-Streamed Performances

Artists around the world have adapted to shutdowns by swapping physical performance spaces for online concerts. Even after in-person shows are safe to attend, virtual and livestreamed concerts may continue to play a major role in the music industry.

Events Virtual Engagement

Virtual Engagement

Arts and culture institutions are offering virtual programming, activities, tours and exhibitions. Coming out from this pandemic, museums are re-examining their strategies to continue being mainstays of civic life while exploring new hybrid approaches. Institutional leaders are experimenting with setting up temporary pop-up museums in neighborhoods to increase audience outreach or partnering with local organizations to promote open-access digital content hubs.

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.

Return of Live Concerts

As the U.S. continues to reopen, live music concerts are among the events starting to come back. Small and outdoor stages are seeing strong demand for tickets to shows. However, new Covid-19 protocols will mean a changed experience for many attendees.

Recommended Practices

Health & Sanitation

  • Conduct a health screening with staff and attendees in accordance with the most up-to-date recommendations from the local public health department.
  • Advise event staff, visitors and attendees to stay home if they have tested positive for COVID-19, are waiting for COVID-19 test results, have COVID-19 symptoms or if they have had close contact with a person who has tested positive for or who has symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Have a plan to isolate and transport staff, visitors and attendees with COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Face coverings and other PPE should be worn by employees and guests in accordance with the most up-to-date recommendations from the local public health department.
  • Remind staff and attendees to wash their hands frequently (for example, before, during and after taking tickets or after touching garbage) with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, staff and attendees can use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol and rub their hands until dry.
  • Encourage guests to avoid singing or shouting, especially indoors. If possible, keep music levels down so people don’t have to shout or speak loudly to be heard.
  • Ensure that you have adequate supplies to support healthy hygiene. Supplies include soap, water, hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol, a way to dry hands (e.g., paper towels, hand dryer), tissues, disinfectant wipes, masks (as feasible) and no-touch trash cans.
  • Clean high touch surfaces and shared objects once a day.
  • You may want to either clean more frequently or choose to disinfect (in addition to cleaning) in shared spaces if certain conditions apply that can increase the risk of infection from touching surfaces:
    • High transmission of COVID-19 in your community
    • Low number of people wearing masks
    • Infrequent hand hygiene
    • The space is occupied by people at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19
  • If there has been a sick person or someone who tested positive for COVID-19 in your facility within the last 24 hours, you should clean AND disinfect the space.
  • 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, 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.
  • Stagger attendance times or offer expanded hours of operation with limited attendance at a given time to minimize the number of attendees at the venue.
  • Consider developing flexible refund policies for attendees for events that involve a participation fee.
  • Interactive exhibit (touch and feel exhibits, play areas) may be closed or modified to help maintain best practices for health and safety.
  • Discourage attendees and staff from greeting others with physical contact (for example, handshakes). Include this reminder on signs about physical distancing.
  • Offer online attendance options in addition to in-person attendance to help reduce the number of in-person attendees.
  • 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.
  • Limit in-person attendance or seating capacity to allow for physical distancing, or host smaller events in larger spaces.
  • Consider changing the seating layout or availability of seating so that people can remain at least six feet apart.
  • Provide physical guides, such as tape on floors or sidewalks and signs on walls, to ensure that people remain at least 6 feet apart in lines and at other times. (NOTE: Please find a downloadable wait marker template on the DSM Forward resources page.)
  • Establish pedestrian traffic flow plans to reduce bottlenecks and ensure the ability to maintain physical distancing at the event.
  • Consider using multiple, single-direction entrances and exits and discourage crowded areas where it may be difficult to maintain appropriate distance. Utilize separate event entry and exit points if feasible.
  • Consider making walkways one-way or clearly divided for bi-directional movement. Provide appropriate directional signs and markers, such as those that are freestanding or on the ground, to indicate the appropriate direction of pedestrian movement.
  • Install physical barriers, such as sneeze guards and partitions, in areas where it is difficult for people to remain at least 6 feet apart. Barriers can be useful at cash registers and other areas where maintaining a distance of 6 feet is difficult.
  • Stagger use of shared indoor spaces such as dining halls, game rooms, and lounges as much as possible and clean and disinfect them between uses.
  • Follow restaurant guidelines for any food and beverage service areas.
  • Use flexible worksites (for example, telework) and flexible work hours (for example, staggered shifts) to help establish policies and practices for physical distancing of sox feet between staff and attendees.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • If setting up outdoor seating under a pop-up, open air tent, ensure guests are still seated at least six feet apart. Enclosed four-wall tents will have less air circulation than open air tents. If outdoor temperature or weather forces you to put up the tent sidewalls, consider leaving one or more sides open or rolling up the bottom 12 inches of each sidewall to enhance ventilation while still providing a wind break.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Mass Gatherings and Large Community Events Require Additional Considerations

Several factors can contribute to the likelihood of attendees getting and spreading COVID-19 at large events. In combination, the following factors will create higher or lower amounts of risk:

  • Number of COVID-19 cases in your community — High or increasing levels of COVID-19 cases in the event location or the locations the attendees are coming from increase the risk of infection and spread among attendees. Relevant data can often be found on the local health department website or on CDC’s COVID Data Tracker County View.
  • Exposure during travel — Airports, airplanes, bus stations, buses, train stations, trains, public transport, gas stations and rest stops are all places where physical distancing may be challenging and ventilation may be poor.
  • Setting of the event — Indoor events, especially in places with poor ventilation, pose more risk than outdoor events.
  • Length of the event — Events that last longer pose more risk than shorter events. Being within six feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more (over a 24-hour period) greatly increases the risk of becoming infected and requires quarantine.
  • Number and crowding of people at the event — Events with more people increase the likelihood of being exposed. The size of the event should be determined based on whether attendees from different households can stay at least six feet (two arm lengths) apart. Physical distancing at events can reduce transmission risk — for example, blocking off seats or modifying room layouts.
  • Behavior of attendees during an event — Events where people engage in behaviors such as interacting with others from outside their own household, singing, shouting, not maintaining physical distancing or not wearing masks consistently and correctly, can increase risk.

Additional Health and Safety Measures at Mass Gatherings:

  • Adjust the size of an event based on the ability of attendees from different households to social distance
  • Advance tickets are strongly recommended. Tickets should be made available for purchase or reservation online or via phone whenever possible to reduce the need for queuing at the event.
  • 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.
  • Particular attention should be given to staggered exiting of venues at the conclusion of an event. Establish directional entry and exit into venues whenever possible.
  • 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.
  • Consider limiting the number of people who occupy the restroom at one time to allow for social distancing.
  • If you are providing portable toilets, consider increasing the number provided and increase the spacing between them to reduce the likelihood of long lines in which it will be difficult to engage in physical distancing.
  • Do not allow lines or crowds to form near the restroom. Take steps to ensure that individuals can stay at least six feet apart from each other.
  • 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.
  • Ensure restrooms remain adequately stocked with supplies for handwashing throughout the duration of the event.
  • Have additional hand-washing/sanitization stations. If possible, provide hand sanitizer stations that are touch-free.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • If a cafeteria or group dining room is used, serve individually plated meals or grab-and-go options, and hold activities in separate areas.
  • Use disposable food service items including utensils and dishes. If disposable items are not feasible or desirable, ensure that all non-disposable food service items are handled with gloves and washed with dish soap and hot water or in a dishwasher.
  • People should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after removing their gloves or after directly handling used food service items.
  • Avoid offering any self-serve food or drink options, such as buffets, salad bars and drink stations. Consider having pre-packaged boxes or bags for each attendee.
  • Limit any sharing of food, tools, equipment or supplies by staff members.
  • Ask customers and staff 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.
  • Provide physical guides, such as tape on floors or sidewalks and signs on walls, to ensure that people remain at least six feet apart when waiting in line to order or pick up.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. 
  • If transport vehicles like buses are used by the event staff, drivers should practice all safety actions and protocols as indicated for other staff — for example, washing hands often, wearing masks and maintaining physical distance of bus riders.
  • 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. 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’s (DMSO) summer 2021 season of concerts will include both broadcast and in-person performances through Labor Day weekend. The Symphony’s 27th Annual Yankee Doodle Pops Concert, originally planned for Friday, July 2 at the Iowa State Capitol, will instead take place as a statewide broadcast thanks to a unique partnership with Iowa PBS and Iowa Public Radio. The Symphony plans to perform its second season of Water Works Pops on Labor Day weekend, offering a holiday weekend of free music in the Lauridsen Amphitheater at Water Works Park. The Orchestra continues to offer DMSO at Home, a project launched last year that connects the community online through videos, livestreamed concerts and more.


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 streams all of its productions live on Facebook and YouTube to view live or at a later date.

Ballet Des Moines

Ballet Des Moines will perform at Water Works Park for “A Midsummer Night’s Swing,” which also will include jazz interludes from Max Wellman and pianist Nate Sparks, Shakespeare readings by Iowa Stage Theatre actors, and six Sinatra-style songs by vocalist Tina Haase Findlay. The show starts at 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 29.

Des Moines Metro Opera

Des Moines Metro Opera’s 2021 Summer Festival will be a bold return to the stage with quality performances patrons have come to know and love. Health and safety measures to keep audience members safe will be in place.

City Voices Des Moines

City Voices Des Moines moved quickly to ensure that students would continue to have access to learning about and making music through virtual platforms. The organization offers virtual programming including concerts and recitals, that can be found on their website or Facebook.

ArtForce Iowa

At the onset of the pandemic, ArtForce Iowa launched ArtFul Connections, a virtual art workshop, ArtForce at Home, an initiative to provide and deliver art supplies to marginalized youth in Iowa, and its ArtForce Iowa Shop. The sixth annua #KNOWJUSTICE: Know Change exhibit will be virtual.

Art Week Des Moines

Art Week Des Moines 2021 will be online through a number of platforms as well as in our communities, viewable from a safe distance.

Helping Communities

Gov. Kim Reynolds 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.

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: 5/14/2021