Most important: I hope that my message finds you and your friends and families in good health.
This has been a challenging message for me to compose. The Grand Oshkosh has always played a role of inspiration, creativity, entertainment, education, leadership, and community. Yet we find ourselves in deeply uncertain times, and the moments we are able to share together are, at least temporarily, in jeopardy. In this moment, there are more questions than answers, and any one decision can have dramatic effects on entire industries, including the arts. The stakes feel very high.
As many of us adjust to new "stay at home" mandates, it is a stressful time because of all of the uncertainty, and because of our lack of control over the situation. Shows have been postponed, and we are likely looking at a shortfall of at least $75,000 with the loss of shows and the GRAND NIGHT fundraiser this spring. Like many non-profits, I am scrambling to implement a strategy, and it’s a little like trying to keep one’s balance in an earthquake.
However, I also want to share a different perspective.
We continue to prepare and adjust to the challenges ahead, but also, look for what role can play in shaping the journey that follows. It truly is a dark time because of the lives being lost, the opportunities cancelled, and the many lives and livelihoods that are and will be caught in the middle of this crisis. But it has also been my experience, that when faced with adversity and challenge, this organization, this staff, this community, rises to meet that challenge.
The arts are “ground zero” of the resurrection of spirit and community. When the crisis is over, our role is to be ready to lead the celebration, to provide the opportunities for us to be together again. Plans continue for a great 2020-21 season, even as we are prepared to “wait out” the summer if needed.
And you don’t need to “go without”. The Grand was one of the first to add an online “gathering space”, with connections to live streams, and our own YouTube channel which premieres specially-generated videos from our artist friends. The arts lead. The Grand leads. Times of crisis are our moment to step forward, to face the challenge, and then to shine, shining the light ahead for others to follow. We won’t leave you.
In return, I hope you won’t leave us. Non-profit work can sometimes be the work equivalent of living paycheck-to-paycheck. Our cash flow depended heavily on ticket sales, rental performances, the spring Annual Fund Drive, and the Grand Night Fundraiser. In times of crisis, we’ve always been able to count on you and your financial support to weather the storm. The difference is, this time, that many of you are struggling as well. I understand, of course. But I have no choice but to lead The Grand through this, as best I can, by asking you to support us, however you can. You’d expect no less of me.
In my 35 years in the industry, and nearly 16 at The Grand Oshkosh, I’ve found our community to be strong in the face of crisis. The Grand, in turn, I see as strong, resilient, creative, and deeply needed. Together, we have weathered many storms together – including an eighteen-month closure in 2009-10. In times like these, we have the opportunity to stand together, knowing that we have the capacity to handle uncertainty, volatility, and even illness and pain. And the arts matter now, more than ever, in uplifting those around us.
With that having been said, I encourage you to do what you need to do to fill your own cup first. Slow down, grieve, take a breath, and really take care of your own needs. As you do, please consider: can you help us? As always, any level of support is helpful—deeply needed—as we face this together. And when it’s over, we’re going to be front in center in a celebration of life here in Downtown Oshkosh, just as we’ve celebrated for over 130 years. Thank you.
Wishing you health, humor, and strength.
Director, The Grand Oshkosh