Gatherings larger than 100 people could be out of the question for more than a year, New Mexico Tourism Secretary Jen Paul Schroer announced in a virtual meeting this week.
That means stadiums, theaters and conference centers might remain empty for months.
It also raises questions about the future of festivals, art markets and even large weddings, many of which have been canceled this summer due to public health risks posed by the novel coronavirus. The leaders of some arts organizations said they’re prepared to meet the challenge of an ongoing pandemic by planning smaller events or taking performances outdoors. Others, still reeling from this year’s cancellations, said it’s too soon to call it quits on another summer.
“I know a lot of events have been canceled this year,” Schroer said in the Thursday webinar on the planned reopening of the state’s hospitality industry. “We may not have the ability to do a mass gathering until we have a vaccine or herd immunity. It could be a year or 18 months.”
The Governor’s Office concurred.
“It could be a long time before it is safe to have gatherings of more than 100,” Nora Meyers Sackett, a spokeswoman for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, said Friday.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Friday on NPR’s Morning Edition radio show he believes a coronavirus vaccine could be deployed as early as December or January, “if we don’t run into things that are, as they say, unanticipated setbacks.”
But everything is guesswork in the age of the coronavirus.
Mary Madigan, executive director of Santa Fe Pro Musica, understands that. She wasn’t surprised by Schroer’s comments on mass gatherings.
“That’s been in my awareness for weeks,” Madigan said.
Pro Musica, which offers classical music programs, already has delayed its fall season opening a couple of months, moving it to November from September. But Madigan acknowledged some contracts are still in the works and a November start is not etched in stone.
“Will we be able to start Nov. 23? Have concerts in December? Will the winter be possible? Or will concerts not be possible at all?” she asked. “All these things we are considering.”
The Lensic Performing Arts Center has held off announcing its own stagings amid the uncertainty, Executive Director Joel Aalberts said.
“We had a season in the bag,” Aalberts said.
But as circumstances changed during the pandemic, the theater was forced to adapt.
“We will announce events when there is traction to do so,” Aalberts said.
He has some advantage because he hasn’t had to cancel events and is preparing to book for the new reality, whatever that might be — and whenever. “It is understanding the playing field and making the best decision,” Aalberts said. “There are a number of different options to work within the restrictions that remain established.”
The International Folk Art Market, which had to call off its July event on Museum Hill, will launch a virtual market July 10, where it will sell artisan products for the rest of the year.
But market CEO Stuart Ashman said he isn’t ready to start thinking about the possibility of another summer in Santa Fe without a live event.
“We always think of worst-case scenarios,” Ashman said. “Our strategy for the current year is to continue to have online programming. Towards the end of the year, we’re going to reassess.
“At this point,” he added, “it’s too early to throw up your hands and say we have to wait until 2022.”
The Santa Fe Indian Market also is going online this year.
Amanda Crocker, marketing director of the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, which produces the Indian Market, said, “It’s devastating to think about not having a live market for another year.”
Still, she lauded Lujan Grisham’s leadership during the pandemic. “We’ll just stay tuned to what she says.”
The Santa Fe Opera scrapped its summer 2020 season and now has 13 months to watch how the pandemic evolves until its next series of performances scheduled in summer 2021.
“Indications are that the performing arts will be the last sector to recover from this pandemic,” Robert Meya, the opera’s general director, said in an email. “Like so many others, we are hopeful for a vaccine early in the new year. In the meanwhile, we are focusing our efforts on planning for our 2021 season.”
Performance Santa Fe sent out its slickly produced season brochure a few weeks ago but already has canceled the first six performances, from July 19 to Sept. 19.
Chad Hilligus, executive and artistic director, said in an email, “We’re continuing to take things one performance at a time and will be basing our efforts on what’s best for our patrons, artists, staff and the Santa Fe community at large.”
Performance Santa Fe’s season runs through June 2021.
“We present a year-long season and are fortunate to have time on our side,” Hilligus said.
The organization could shift into another sort of season if necessary.
“Performances may look a bit different until there is a vaccine in place,” Hilligus said. “That could take the form of lower audience capacities, moving events outdoors, and making a handful of other adjustments as necessary to ensure the safety of our artists, patrons and staff.
“We’ll be ready for whatever challenges are presented to us.”