In response to massive upheavals in the arts, nonprofit, and social justice sectors as a result of COVID-19, Tim Cynova (Chief Operating Officer at Fractured Atlas) and Lauren Ruffin (Chief External Relations Officer), recognized that we need to be talking to each other. In the arts and nonprofit sectors, we need to hear about how other institutions are managing crises and uncertainty, and how they are envisioning our future. So, they started talking to their colleagues.
When we say that the Fractured Atlas team understands the pain of our members who have had to cancel shows and performances because of COVID-19, we mean it. When External Relations Associate Sophia Park isn’t managing grant applications for Fractured Atlas or working on other projects to help our operation run more smoothly, she curates independently and as one half of Jip Gallery. Her summer show was cancelled because of COVID-19.
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If you are a manager who had to rapidly transition to remote work and then learn how to sustain virtual work for an indeterminate amount of time, you’ve likely felt some pressure and uncertainty. How do you keep your team on track during a pandemic? How do you let them know that they really can take time to care for themselves and loved ones? How can you make sure that you know what your team is working on without micromanaging them?
Fractured Atlas tries to be transparent about How We Work. Especially when it comes to the transition we made to becoming a fully distributed team. Over three years, we slowly wound down the number of people coming into our Manhattan office, and in late 2019, we fully flipped the switch. Here’s what it looked like for us to transition to a virtual team.
The COVID-19 pandemic is shaking the structure of the arts world in an incredibly painful way. People have lost their livelihoods. Institutions (especially the smaller, independent ones) face uncertain futures, and nobody knows what the future holds. Fractured Atlas recognizes the magnitude of loss, grief, and uncertainty that artists and the arts sector as a whole is feeling right now. We also recognize that there is an opportunity for us to build new, more equitable structures.
In an unpredictable world, artists need to get in the regular habit of inventorying and documenting your work. That way, if an emergency hits, you’re better prepared to get relief.
How are you doing?
On March 12, in the early phases of national lockdowns in the United States, a Google Doc with resources for freelance artists started making the rounds. It had links to information and resources for freelancers who were getting their jobs cancelled because of COVID-19, including emergency funding. Like other Google Docs that serve an immediate need at the right time, it exploded. The document crashed and its creators quickly shifted the Google Doc to a website. Since then, its creators have become a temporary collective, the Freelance Artist Resource Producing Collective.
For software developers, as with all kinds of newly remote workers, the adjustment to working from home comes in phases. The first phase is making sure that everyone has the right computers, apps, and programs to complete the functions of their job and to communicate with one another. Then comes a whole new set of questions. How do you know what you and your colleagues are supposed to be doing? How do you feel connected to your colleagues? How do you update your infrastructure to be cloud-based rather than dependent on a physical server?
During a crisis, the impulse is to help. But it’s hard to know where to start. In the case of the coronavirus pandemic, you might be pulled in a number of different directions. Should you donate to the staff funds for the coffee shops, bars, bookstores, movie theaters, and nightclubs that you would ordinarily be visiting? Should you donate to the big national fundraisers or to small, local, specific ones? Should you focus on food security or making sure that essential workers have enough PPE to keep themselves safe? How many voicemails should you leave for your political representatives?