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Small businesses coping with national emergencies

written by: Susan Mumford Nov. 15, 2015 1) RECOMMENDED-> Susan Mumford + Chris King's Blog 2208 views

Small businesses coping with national emergencies

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I write in the immediate aftermath of horrifying terrorist attacks on the great cultural city of Paris. On Friday 13th November 2015, six simultaneous assaults were carried out across the French city by three coordinated teams of gunmen (as far as we currently know). The previous day, there was a massacre in Beirut, where several deadly suicide bombs were detonated. While the majority of media in the West has focused on the Parisian attack as it feels so close to home, the sudden string of attacks across nations is indicative of an unfolding situation being dealt with by countries near and far.

The French state was holding crisis meetings as of Friday night, and declared a ‘State of Emergency’. This resulted in the closure of tourist attractions and cultural destinations, particularly those that attract high visitor numbers. At the time of writing, it is suspected that at least one gunman is still on the loose. While France is in the midst of tracking down perpetrators, accomplices and associates, tightening down on national security and mourning the loss of so many, the owners of small businesses also wonder what the tragedy means for their future.

The much-celebrated Paris Photo Fair had finished the second of four scheduled days of trading when the atrocities occurred. The homepage of www.parisphoto.com presents artist Jean Jullien’s widely-shared image of the Eiffel Tower morphed into a peace symbol, ‘Peace for Paris’ (see above), accompanied by the statement: “Under the order of the Ministry of Culture and the Prime Minister, all cultural institutions in Ile-de-France are closed this week-end.” According to press release, the Grand Palais (the fair location) is closed “until further notice.”

The first priority of exhibitors is of course safety, and getting home to loved ones. With 147 galleries from 34 countries, in addition to 27 book publishers and specialist art book dealers, people had travelled far and wide at great expense. Businesses will be impacted by the weekend closure, many of whom won’t cover costs. The majority will weather the storm, but some dealerships and publishers / booksellers, particularly younger enterprises with less stability, could ultimately fold owing to impact on cash flow and the like.

While you can insure against some forms of trading interruption, for instance an art shipment not arriving at a fair and an exhibitor not being able to physically get to an event, acts of terrorism and resulting closures are another matter altogether. What can be done? Endeavour to get your business into a safe position that can handle unforeseen events, and do your upmost to keep trading. In the instance of Paris Photo exhibitors for example, they might encourage collectors to browse and shop online in lieu of visiting the Grand Palais this weekend.  

In this spirit of keeping on keeping on, Photo Paris satellite fair FotoFever, which was not required to close by the State of Emergency, has kept its doors open. A tweet by photographer Tami Bahat aka @tamibahat sums up the keep-moving spirit: “Thank you to all the beautiful people that have visited our @fabrikworld booth at @fotofever_eu. We love you, Paris.”

The 11th arrondissement-based artist Marcus McAllister, a close associate, has likewise carried on the show, stating on his Facebook page, Mon thé de dimanche à l'atelier aura bien lieu cet après-midi, comme d'habitude, de 15h à 18h---qu'on n'abandonne pas la convivialité ! / I'll be hosting my usual Sunday Tea in the studio this afternoon from 3 to 6pm--I'm not giving up on good cheer and fellowship!”

At the time of national emergency, the safety of yourself and family comes first and foremost. Providing this is in tact (as much as is feasible), rise above fear and do your best to keep your chin up and move forward. Taking positive action in your own way is in the best interest of your country, as well as your small enterprise. 

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"Having loved the stars so fondly, I shall not fear the night." I don't know the source of this quote but it is one that helps me channel more difficult emotions into artwork. Painting galaxies of stars, has in fact, become a meditation on individual lives impacted by unexpected tragedy, often painted to the soundtrack of news reports on a wide variety of horrors. But I am not painting stars at the moment as I have been finishing off preparations to launch my first artist newsletter - making this weekend a difficult balance as self promotion seems both unnatural in such circumstances and yet oddly essential as changing my schedule too drastically empowers such attacks in ways I don't want to concede. So like those posting above, I am continuing with my work, to nearly my original timetable, while seeking to acknowledge recent world events in other ways along my way.

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Posted by : Simon de Pinna 15/11/2015 18:33

Well said, Susan. It's absolutely vital that everyone responds to these atrocious acts in any appropriate way they can. For artists, musicians, poets and other creative people, the best response is to show solidarity by creating work that expresses their emotions.

So I look forward to seeing more art inspired by these terrible events. It's the best way to demonstrate the values that distinguish us from the terrorists.

Simon

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Agree with the sentiments entirely- Paris is a beloved city and one of the reasons I chose to become a Gallerist. Based in London although American I have witnessed terrorism first hand at an art fair ARCO in 2006 when ETA exploded a bomb shortly before our opening. Fortunately there were no fatalities and the fair did open !

I am currently doing a pop up exhibition NYC/LES and we too have been effected as many art lovers and collectors are highly sensitive , sophisticated international people -in the immediate aftermath of such tragedies many would not be in a mood to buy art.

Our role as Gallery professionals is to stay positive and supportive of the cultural and artistic community thereby ensuring that the monstrous organizations creating such havoc DO NOT SUCCEED.

I send all my love and prayers to the people of France - America's oldest ally and friend.

Cynthia Valianti Corbett, Director - Cynthia Corbett Gallery