Our CEO’s message to members: AWAD’s response to COVID-19

by | Mar 11, 2020 | Blog post

March 11, 2020

Dear AWAD Members,

Our organization was inspired by the challenging environment of the global financial crisis of 2008-9. Over a decade later, we’ve entered a different period of uncertainty with the novel coronavirus COVID-19. This new viral infection was declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, 2020, sitting alongside HIV/AIDS which is an ongoing pandemic. Other ‘recent’ outbreaks achieving the same status were the 2009 H1N1 flu and the 1918 ‘Spanish flu’. (See The Guardian’s announcement, ‘WHO declares coronavirus pandemic’, by Sarah Boseley.)

Much like the global financial crisis, it’s challenging to work out what to do. I learned back then to not curl up under the gallery desk but to move the business forward, one step at a time. This is exactly what you as an AWAD Member are encouraged to do, with the power of professional community supporting you each step along the way.

Here we’ve established two priorities: firstly, personal health, and secondly, business health. The former is key to be able to act upon the latter.

1st priority: The health of you, your family, your team members and the wider community.

The foundation:

Maintaining a consistent regimen of cleanliness. Here’s a useful list bullet pointed go-to list from Ars Technica (see ‘Don’t Panic: The comprehensive Ars Technica guide to the coronavirus [Updated March 11’ by Beth Mole]:

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Make sure you wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds—the time it takes you to hum the Happy Birthday song twice.
  • You should especially wash your hands before eating, after using the restroom, sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose.
  • If you can’t get to a sink, use a hand sanitizer that has at least 60 percent alcohol, the CDC says.
  • Avoid touching your face, particularly your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • If you cough or sneeze, cover your face with your elbow or a tissue. If you use a tissue, throw that tissue away promptly, then go wash your hands.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people. If you think someone has a respiratory infection, it’s safest to stay 2 meters away.
  • If you are sick, try to stay home to get better and avoid spreading the infection.
  • Regularly disinfect commonly touched surfaces and items in your house, such as door knobs and counter tops.

To be reviewed daily:
Implementation of ‘social distancing’ which, according to Max Brooks in the New York Times, is “our best defense against the coronavirus” (see ‘Social Distancing May Be Our Best Weapon To Fight The Coronavirus’). This incorporates the cancellation, delay or change of events, personal and professional alike. It means saying ‘no’ to in-person meetings with collectors and artists alike, and to remote working with team members and colleagues. With COVID-19 now being pandemic, this is an important consideration – for your health and the health of others, and a daily review of your and your business’s position is highly recommended.

How to conduct a daily review of the situation:

Refer to reliable news sources for your geographical area and use common sense. Be objective and rely on information available. Bring others into the conversation if helpful to make a decision and to help you keep to your word… even if, like me, it means not participating in an event. Make use of the ‘AWAD Members’ private Facebook Group to bounce ideas off of fellow members and to find out what they’re doing – in a safe and supportive environment.

2nd priority: The health of your business.

Assess your cash position:
Do you have money sitting in the bank or available liquid assets? Or are you in a cash poor position? Facing this head-on and making decisions now about where to prioritise (think: spending and saving) is paramount.

Revenue streams:
> What income do you expect to continue? Consider ongoing projects, client retainers, public/private contracts, subscriptions, consultancy and so on.

> What is likely to dry up over the peak of the virus? This might be passing trade sales, art trips, current leads that weren’t yet banked, and the like.
> What opportunities and ideas can you seize? Perhaps you’ll stage online exhibitions, up your game with online marketplaces, develop a new membership club, offer remote teaching or consulting, etc.


There are opportunities to be had and ideas to be generated and developed during this period. Just think, it was such a moment that inspired AWAD!

As for AWAD? The team already works remotely and my two late winter and early spring business trips to the New York Chapter were called off, with alternative arrangements having been made for commitments. The New York Chapter’s event on March 10th saw 60% attendance online, the London Chapter’s event to celebrate Women’s History Month on March 24 is now taking place in the form of an Online Summit  the Global Chapter continues to host monthly online meet-ups open to ALL members and both the London and New York Chapters are putting in place online meeting back-ups for April and May, with twice-monthly reviews of the situation.

Community is always important, and right now, it’s vital. Stay in (virtual!) touch with fellow members, look after your health and get creative with current and future project development.


Best wishes for your thriving health as ever, one and all, 


Susan J Mumford
AWAD Founder & CEO