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Arts leaders discuss post-COVID-19 world

Two of Miami’s most prominent female business leaders – Jessica Goldman Srebnick P’21 ’23 ’25 of Wynwood development fame and Lourdes Lopez P’19 of the Miami City Ballet – discussed the significant challenges of navigating what is expected to be months of continued social distancing and safety precautions in the aftermath of COVID-19, and the particular impact in the arts world, which thrives on vibrant gatherings in galleries, theaters and concert halls.

Goldman Srebnick, CEO of Goldman Properties, and Lopez, Artistic Director of the Miami City Ballet, addressed the Ransom Everglades community virtually during a Paul Ransom Digital Podium event on May 19.
“There is going to be a post-COVID, absolutely – that world is going to come back,” Lopez said. “It’s the in-between, and how do we survive in the in-between?”

“The tsunami is still there, but we’ve gained the strength to start swimming and start strategizing about our swimming,” Goldman Srebnick said. “Pivoting is going to be really, really critical to the success of leaders. Being able to pivot and make changes and do things really differently.

“The comment about: ‘Well, this is how we’ve always done things’ – that has been removed out of our vocabulary in my company, because what we’ve done in the past is irrelevant.”

Both described devastating fallout in their respective businesses from the virus outbreak. Goldman Srebnick, who oversees a number of restaurants, office buildings, commercial and retail properties and Wynwood Walls in Wynwood, was forced into the “heart-wrenching” cut of more than three-fourths of her companies’ employees. When the Miami City Ballet canceled its final performance of the 2019-20 season, it lost some $2 million.

“These are some extraordinary times we are going through,” Lopez said. “It threatens our very existence of why artists are here. We work in a communal environment; we create in a communal environment; and we do our business in a communal environment.”

Both leaders said they have tried to stay calm amid the COVID-19 storm, seeking creative solutions. Within a week, the Miami City Ballet had moved its dance school online, and within two weeks, it had moved more than 100 classes online – bringing about some financial stability even as it shut down the performance side of operations.

The company also produced a remote tribute to first responders: “A Dance for Heroes,” in which a choreographed piece was performed by dancers who never shared an actual stage. Goldman Srebnick, who served on Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s task force for reopening, noted that, throughout history, “crisis has yielded some of the world’s greatest artwork.” During the webinar, she showed a slideshow of art produced around the world during COVID-19.

“I’m a big believer that art has the power to make change, to give us hope, to transform our thinking,” Goldman Srebnick said. “To me, it’s incredibly powerful. It’s a way to communicate, it’s a way to keep together, it’s a way to share, and it also marks very important moments in time.”

Lopez said has leaned on valuable lessons learned under the great choreographer George Balanchine, whom she danced for as a principal and soloist at New York City Ballet. Goldman Srebnick recalled the wisdom passed on by her late father, Tony Goldman, the founder of Goldman Properties.

“My dad was my all-time favorite teacher,” she said. “He taught me about courage, he taught me about being comfortable with really taking risk – taking big risk – and believing in yourself …. Even in the scariest of moments … he never gave into fear. Ever.”
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Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The mission of Ransom Everglades School is to provide an educational environment in which the pursuit of honor, academic excellence and intellectual growth is complemented by concern for the physical, cultural and character development of each student. The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.