Instead of sending out tons of emails as we navigate our way through this COVID-19 crisis, we’ve added this page, where we will put daily-ish updates regarding the status of the studio and what sort of activities we are coming up with to keep you fit and only minimally stir-crazy.
Feel free to email Bev if you want to respond to anything below, make suggestions, or just say hello. I miss everybody already.
May 29, 2020
Plans are proceeding for our Phase 2 reopening, whenever that is allowed to occur. We had a great virtual staff meeting last night in which we discussed the face-covering issue, and came to the conclusion that the safest, simplest approach is to require masks (or equivalent cloth face covering) while training. Given the other issues we are dealing with – namely lack of ventilation and difficulty sanitizing equipment – it simply makes the most sense to limit the amount of virus that could be spread in the room. Now we will focus our efforts on coming up with the right material and design for masks that one can train in effectively. We are certainly not the only studio working on this problem so I expect solutions to emerge. Yes, it will mean adjusting and taking it easy for a while. But it is the right decision, at least given the current information we have.
This doesn’t mean we won’t continue to pursue ventilation fixes and/or other solutions. But none of those will happen right away, so the best way for us to open sooner than later is just to mask up. And yes, there will almost certainly be VA-branded masks available at some point!
May 19, 2020
Who knew I’d still be writing occasional updates two months later? I don’t know who even reads them but it helps me to write them sometimes.
Not gonna lie, the stress is starting to get to me. There are many concrete steps we are taking toward reopening, but there are still some big open issues that I can’t seem to get my head around. I talk to other circus school directors multiple times per week and we share all the info we can find, but most days I just want Someone Who Knows to show me the best way forward. Absent that, I’m doing my best to make good choices to protect everyone, short of just not reopening. The biggies are:
1. To mask, or not to mask. There are many good reasons to require people to wear masks all the time in the studio. Containing respiratory droplets appears to be one of the best ways to reduce transmission of the virus. BUT…there are some legitimate concerns about wearing them while training in the air, ability to breathe being one big one of course. But also…whether they will actually stay in place and do what they are there to do, whether they could get hung up on equipment, whether they fit properly in the first place. Not to mention their impact on communication and ability to read facial expressions, which we do rely on in the studio when teaching. Having people wear masks everywhere BUT while in the air is an option, but requires that everyone understand the proper methods for taking them off again and putting them on again, and that they be safely stored in between.
2. Ventilation/filtration/purification. These are mainly an issue if people are not training in masks, in which case we need to be concerned with respiratory droplets falling from people at various heights and moving around in space, as well as the not-well-understood impact of aerosolized viral particles. This is what is currently making my head hurt the most.
3. Equipment disinfection. A lot of aerial equipment is hard to disinfect, or at least to do so between back-to-back uses. Having people provide their own will help but I also don’t want to assume that everyone can afford that investment. We will be doing things like un-taping bar apparatus, washing fabrics more often, and hopefully coming up with some sort of removable rope cover for trapezes.
It’s a lot. But we’ll get there.
April 30, 2020
Thoughts of how to reopen – whenever we are allowed to do so – are constantly on my mind. I’ve volunteered to be part of an ACE task force to come up with tools that any circus school to use to help support this process: staged reopening guidelines; a risk assessment template; and a consent form that will augment the usual waiver. I’m personally working with two other studio directors to create the template, which will then be used to work with local health authorities (for us, King County Health) so develop a mitigation strategy. The consent form will be something everyone must sign in order to train again, and will cover both what we are doing to keep you safe and what you are doing to adhere to best personal practices. Stay tuned for more on all of that.
April 19, 2020
In case you missed the email, VA now has an online Zazzle store filled with merch displaying either our logo (past and present) or show poster artwork. Check it out!
Conversations are starting among circus school owners (and many other businesses, no doubt) about when and how to reopen once we are allowed to. VA will continue to talk to the other local schools as well as others all over the world so that collectively, we can come up with best practices to keep everyone safe. The obvious first step would be to significantly limit the number of people in the studio at any given time, and probably start with people who have their own equipment. (I don’t believe there is any reasonable way to disinfect equipment between users.) It probably also means charging more for studio use since our income will be so reduced. I struggle with this because aerial training is already a fairly privileged activity, and what I don’t want to do is to make it so that only people with means can afford to do it. I welcome suggestions for how to continue to be as inclusive as possible, from a financial standpoint. And I still want to be a place for less-experienced aerialists who don’t (and shouldn’t) have their own equipment yet, and who need the sort of hands-on spotting that is impossible to do while also maintaining social distancing measures.
This is all a moot point until we are legally allowed to be open, of course, but I want to at least start thinking about what the near future might look like.
April 13, 2020
Where has the time gone? Oh right, time has become meaningless.
Just a quick update to say that we will be extending our online schedule through May for now. If a miracle happens and we are able to start offering any sort of in-person training before June, we will announce it with joy!
This of course means that we are not having any shows in May. “Spring Fever” in particular would be kind of inappropriate under the current circumstances, even if anyone had been able to prepare for it! We will reschedule the student show and murder mystery shows once we are back in regular operation.
March 31, 2020
Our online offerings continue to grow! Please don’t hesitate to make requests for other class times/days/content. And yes, we will consider keeping some of these classes around after we reopen if you are enjoying them!
Yesterday I had a 1-hour Zoom conference with over 30 other circus school directors from around the country. We all shared our experiences with online classes, discussed financial support options, and just generally offered empathy and encouragement to each other. How many other industries can you think of where business owners would do that for each other? It really made me proud to be part of the circus world.
We also reaffirmed that, as much as it pains us to keep people grounded right now, this is not the time to be taking risks. And as committed as we are to safety at VA, aerial training is still a risk. So I can state with confidence that the official party line of the circus world right now is that we need to play it safe. Once we see that our health care system is no longer in danger of being overwhelmed by this crisis, we can start talking about ways to go back into the studio.
March 25, 2020
First off, many thanks to everyone who has signed up for online classes! It’s great to see everyone jumping on board with the new reality.
I think it’s safe to say that we will not be able to reopen in any regular capacity until at least May. I’m hoping to come up with ways that we can safely let individuals and small groups train once the situation stabilizes. I know it’s excruciating to be grounded but I hope you are all finding other ways to move your bodies.
Other things we have in the works….some sort of online forum (not FB) where you can all share your non-aerial creative efforts so that we can stay connected, and maybe some new VA schwag that you can order online. Stay tuned!
March 22, 2020
Online classes are up and ready for registration! See below for info about payment.
March 21, 2020
I missed making an update yesterday because I was flat-out coding to get VAMP ready for us to roll out online classes next week! The online part is pretty easy, but I also had to add some prepayment support and…oh, you probably don’t care. The takeaway should be: VAMP is getting some new features, and you’re going to able to sign up for online classes Real Soon! I expect we’ll announce it all tomorrow, and classes will start bright and early Monday morning.
This will also be in the email, but since some folks have been asking: all online classes will be offered on a sliding scale. The price you will see is a suggested price that you are welcome to change. If you are donating your tuition this session, you absolutely should not feel like you need to pay for online classes – just know that you will have to manually edit the price to $0 until I have time to make the software smarter. If you are taking a credit toward next session, you can use some of that credit for online classes if you wish. If you are feeling flush, you are welcome (but in no way expected) to pay extra. If you are suffering income loss due to this situation, please know that it is OK to pay nothing. The instructors are going to get paid, I promise. We want you to feel connected and get some structured workout time in – that is what’s important.
I hope all of you are coping, and getting outside to enjoy some socially-distant time in the sunshine. It really helped my outlook yesterday to able to work in the sun.
March 19, 2020
First Zoom staff meeting achieved! We came up with some great ideas for online classes and hope to start offering them by next week. We’ll provide options for morning, midday, and evening and will provide offerings for beginners as well as more advanced students.
Anyone who was signed up for session classes should have heard from Jill by now regarding whether you wish to roll your tuition over to a future session, get a refund, or donate it toward payroll since I intend to keep paying our staff as long as possible. I want to emphasize that nobody should feel pressured to donate – I know this situation is hitting some people harder than others, so please be honest with us. If you need the money, please say so. We need to take care of each other right now. Those who can afford to donate, we are grateful.
March 18, 2020
Gunnar has already taken his classes online. Lauren is leading the effort to train more of our staff to do Zoom-based classes. We are hearing from many of you that you are still working regular hours, so evenings and weekend offerings would be most appreciated. I’m thinking about setting up my usual Thursday 1:00 class as a virtual shared workout.
Meanwhile, other circus schools and instructors have already started posting online offerings, so this is your chance to check out schools all over the country! They are being collected in this FB post for starters.
There is an a new FB group called Circus Every Damned Pandemic with other links to online content.
Ooh, here’s one about Audio Editing for Aerialists and Performers !
March 17, 2020
In case you are just getting caught up….Versatile Arts is entirely, 100% closed right now. No cleaning, no training, no nothing. We, like many other businesses, are keeping the space clear so that any surfaces that might have had virus on them have time to clear. The data keeps changing but I keep seeing 14 days as the amount of time to wait.
Meanwhile, we are hard at work figuring out how to bring you some online content, and maybe even some outdoor classes as the weather improves. Obviously this will not include aerial training, but many of our instructors can provide workouts for you that require minimal equipment. We know you all want to stay fit and also stay connected to the VA community. We appreciate your patience as we navigate this weird new world of instruction.
We’d love to hear from you if there are days/times/types of classes you’d be interested in taking via online videoconferencing. We will likely be using Zoom, so go ahead and set up a basic account if you haven’t already. We will have a paid account so I think you won’t have to. Still learning about all of this.