Well, this is super cool. A group of Chicagoans have come together to raise money to help provide better air quality in arts and music venues throughout Chicago. The Clean Air Club describes their work:
We believe that focusing on indoor air quality during an ongoing pandemic is one of the ways that we can protect the health and safety of everyone in this community. It's good for performers, it's good for us, and it's good for the long-term health of our thriving creative scene.
If an event or a venue has the Clean Air Club badge, it means that the space (including green rooms and backstage where possible) has at least one HEPA air purifier running to reduce the number of airborne pathogens in the room. The number of purifiers will depend on the cubic volume of air in the space. We aim to reach 6 air changes per hour, a standard recommended by ASHRAE. However, this is not always possible, and we view any number of large purifiers as making a difference, even if it is not perfect.
In practical terms, this means that a Clean Air Club approved event is less likely to be one in which Covid-19 and other respiratory diseases are spread, making it Covid-safer for everyone. While there is still a risk of catching Covid when we are in public, there are many ways to mitigate that risk (including masks, staying home when sick, etc.). Air filtration is an important and under-utilized element of this multifaceted risk-mitigation effort.
The Clean Air Club provides air purifiers for free to venues, galleries, and artists. They fund the purchases through obtaining external grants and through fundraising activities and donations. In an FAQ section of their website, they lay out very clearly that clean, purified air is very much an issue of social justice:
The pandemic, and respiratory diseases in general, have not impacted us all equally. Black and brown communities, low-income, and disabled people have been especially hard hit by the pandemic. Majority Black and brown neighborhoods in Chicago were already health disadvantaged by disproportionate levels of pollution and low air quality due to the systemic and long-term racism that exists in Chicago's infrastructural and zoning choices. This is why we see higher incidences of asthma on the West side and in Little village, for example – our city is structured to make majority-POC neighborhoods bear the negative health costs of the most polluting industries in Chicago. So when the pandemic hit, Black and brown Chicagoans were already at a health disadvantage.
Now that Covid has been with us for years, we have seen the effects: low-income, POC, and disabled people have died at higher rates; have been hospitalized at higher rates; have suffered long-Covid at higher rates. Simply put, the pandemic has reproduced the very forms of racism, classism, and ableism that existed before it began.
The Chicago music and arts scene has also grappled with its involvement in and perpetuation of different forms of oppression – racism at beloved music venues, lack of accessibility for disabled and neurodivergent people, and sometimes exorbitant ticket costs that exclude low-income people from the joyful and healing spaces that arts spaces, at their best, can be. Many of us have enthusiastically contributed to efforts to make these spaces materially and emotionally safer for the marginalized among us. Now it is our time to extend this progressive commitment to the question of health safety at our venues.
In other FAQs, they discuss the science behind air purification, describe what kinds of filters they use, and explain how and why clean air is good for the arts and music industry. They also have a site where you can donate money to the cause.
Thanks, Clean Air Club, for this super important work. I wish more folks would get on board with cleaning the air in shared spaces—it would help us all stay safer, and would go a long way toward creating live music and art venues that are more accessible to everyone. If you're in the Chicago area and want to attend some events at venues utilizing the filters provided by the Clean Air Club, check out this calendar.