May 21, 2020

Documenting the Moment: The Power of Networks

As we continue to shelter-in-place, Director & CEO Lori Fogarty has turned to journaling and shares her thoughts and reflections on the current moment.

by Lori Fogarty, Director and CEO

One of the really striking developments of these few weeks is the creation or solidification of our various networks. I think of these in visual terms as concentric circles. The small circle could be our family or the people we’re living with in our shelter-in-place circumstances, or, the network of our friends, sometimes those who are gathering again after many years. The circles may also represent networks of high school friends reconnecting via video call, or, having “Zoomtails” with other moms in the neighborhood. 

I’ve also so deeply appreciated the network of other organizations that are in Oakland. Since the first indication that this health crisis was going to have a dramatic impact on our organizations, I’ve spoken weekly if not more often with the directors of the Oakland Zoo, Children’s Fairyland, and the Chabot Space and Science Center. Initially, we agreed to share our plans for when and how we would close — and spoke by phone on the day we, along with so many other museums, made the decision to shut our doors. We’ve talked about impact on our staff, our communication to the public and to our stakeholders, about shared efforts to seek additional funding, and about how we’re managing personally.

I’ve also never appreciated so much being a member of the Association of Art Museum Directors. This professional group of some 200 museum directors from across North America has benefited from almost daily phone calls, resource sharing, and pep talks from our AAMD Executive Director. She shared that her weekend reading would be to look back at the minutes of past meetings and conferences during times of great duress when museums had to weather other crises — from World War to 9/11.

I’ve been part of email discussions with other leaders of cultural institutions across the East Bay and the broader Bay Area region, as everyone tries to grapple with what this means, especially for their public and their employees. Two long-time directors of their institutions said to me that this moment would be the hardest of their careers. I realized that this is already the most challenging situation I’ve ever encountered in the twenty years I’ve been a director.

I am so deeply grateful to these networks as we will need them now more than ever. We will need to support each other in ways that we probably never imagined and, within some networks, there will be organizations that may not survive. We will all be called upon to help in new ways and the way we serve our communities will be transformed. Can we make our theater available to performing arts groups that no longer have a space? Can our classrooms become pop-ups for programs that other organizations produce, thereby keeping their missions alive? Can we offer comfort to friends across the state and even the country?

My hope is that, even as we are keeping our physical distance, our connections and networks will be strengthened and we will remember to tap into them not just in times of crisis.

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