Coronavirus and the arts

It’s been a very rough week, and with Governor Gavin Newsom’s Wednesday night mandate that all gatherings of 250 people or more be canceled, at least through March 31st, most arts events across the state are on lockdown.

We’ve posted today’s announcement from LA’s Music Center, closing all of the DTLA hub’s performing arts venues, and shuttering several of SoCal’s major presenters in one fell swoop. As announcements come in, we’ll continue to update the Lauri’s List calendar, as some smaller events will go forward as planned, but with additional precautions.

Who’s affected? Everyone.

Of course, the media has written plenty about the effect on mainstream entertainment, but while millions are worried about Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson (us, too!), not as many people will be immediately aware of how far-reaching the effect of these actions is on the world of live performance. All areas of the performing arts will carry a heavy burden, as live performers don’t have the option to work from home, and are far less protected with essential “cushion” benefits like sick pay, vacation pay, or effective health insurance. With extremely rare exceptions, when they can’t work, they don’t get paid. We all need to bear in mind that this is a community problem.

  • TICKETHOLDERS will have to make alternative arrangements with the presenters. Contact each presenter separately to see how they’re handling the situation, and check their websites before venturing out for any planned event.
  • PRESENTERS will lose revenue not only due to tickets unsold, refunded or otherwise lost, but they will lose any sunk costs in productions that must be canceled. In the meantime, they must manage ongoing decisions regarding auditions and rehearsals for future offerings, amid a grey fog of uncertainty — no easy task, indeed.
  • ADMINISTRATIVE STAFFERS have a monumental task ahead of them, as they must manage the current crisis, communicate with all involved and affected, make hasty arrangements to cancel or move all the pieces of each event, and try to keep themselves healthy as they soldier on.
  • BOX OFFICE WORKERS are on the front line of this situation, and will not only be stretched to the limits as they try to manage thousands of ticket changes, credits and refunds, but weather the ire of many frustrated ticketholders. When people are stressed and fearful, politeness often goes out the window, no matter how reasonable that person might be under normal circumstances. Please be particularly kind to box office staff members as they try to help everyone secure and rearrange tickets during this period.
  • PERFORMERS, CREW AND EVENT STAFF will lose income and networking opportunities because their opportunities to work have been minimized or lost entirely. Even if some events are postponed, scheduling will get in the way in many instances, and availability will be a problem.
  • VENDORS will lose revenue because the restaurants, bars, and other businesses around these major gathering areas will be a wasteland until the venues open again. Other businesses, such as printers, transportation providers and suppliers to these events will lose that revenue.

And that’s just a smattering of the direct effects of these closures and cancellations. There may be some instances where contracts will protect event-related revenue, but most will be lost, and most revenue and payroll will not be protected by event insurance, which primarily covers bodily injury or property damage. Expect broad impact to individuals and families in the arts.

What the List is doing

  • We’ll continue to share information and resources as they become available, and we will do what we do: connecting artists, orgs and opportunities wherever possible, as there will be plenty happening now, and once this crisis passes.
  • We will offer a running list of announcements and links for various SoCal presenters in another post, and will update as new information becomes available.
  • We’ve already started updating event listings, and many of our presenter clients have opted to take down events as they are canceled. We encourage presenters to continue to submit vocal events to our calendar, even if they have to be edited later. It’s important to let the public know what you’re working on, and to let them know you’re still out there. We’ll be ready to see and hear you soon!
  • Our weekly “Next7” automated newsletter will go out tonight as usual (Thursdays, 11pm!), showing whatever is there.
  • We’ll continue to cover the situation on the blog, offering ideas and help wherever we can, including listing virtual events on the calendar and on the Open Calls board. If you have questions or something to contribute, please Contact us.

What you can do

First of all, use your head. Be smart about social distance, transportation and taking care of yourself. Don’t let panic take over, but be safe. If you feel at all ill, stay home, not only for your own safety, but to protect the rest of your community, as well. This only works if we’re all in it together.

Second, please continue to support arts orgs, arts workers and performers from afar, in any way you can. Consider offering virtual support, such as…

What’s a “virtual tasting”?
  • …attending an online event, like Five Senses Tastings’ first “virtual tasting” on March 15. (We love creative solutions like this!!!)
  • …taking time to offer an online shout-out for a recent concert or production you really loved.
  • …donating to or hosting an online fundraiser, as they will be very important during this time.
  • …sending a gift card, gift certificate or grocery delivery to a performer who is facing financial stress. (Be sure to coordinate that with them first, so it’s genuinely helpful.)
  • …hosting a virtual event of your own (and be sure it’s on our calendar!), to keep communication and engagement flowing, even if we’re not gathering IRL. (Please Contact us if you need help getting started with this.)
  • …keeping an eye on each other through social media, so no one gets unbearably isolated or too far behind.
  • …telling your friends about later events, so they can buy tickets now.
  • …doing whatever you can to help cushion the blow for the many thousands of people who will be impacted by this situation, even if it’s sharing a cheerful message and a virtual hug. (Performers tend to be an especially huggy people, and we’re not getting that support right now!)

Third, this is a good time to speak up, and Californians for the Arts has outlined the crisis for the arts sector very clearly in their email for arts advocates, released today:

We realize all people and all businesses are impacted by COVID-19. Now more than ever we need to advocate for the value of arts in our lives, the importance of gathering for shared artistic experiences and how artists can lead us towards hope and truth in our most challenging of times.

Between the impacts of compliance with new employment laws such as AB 5 and now the public health crisis of COVID-19, artists and arts organizations are struggling. We need to advocate to our elected officials and private funders that we need support. 

Here are a few ways to be part of the ongoing conversation in California, and CAfortheArts’ links make it easy:

  1. One immediate action you can take today: Send a letter to Governor Newsom and your elected state and federal officials to make them aware of the impact on our sector.
  2. California Arts Council has released an Arts Field Survey to determine the impact of event cancellations and the COVID-19 public health crisis on the arts. Please fill this out as it helps the state to determine how to best serve our field.
  3. Please consider joining us for virtual arts advocacy day on April 15 and celebrating the significance of arts in your community in April during Arts, Culture & Creativity Month
  4. Please follow CAfortheArts on Facebook and check their website regularly. They will be adding resources and information as it develops.

Finally (and probably most important)

Stay positive. The worst thing we can do now is to overreact, hoard supplies and turn our fear into mass hysteria. The abundance of closures during this time will cause additional pressure for everyone across the state, the nation, and around the world, and those paychecks and opportunities will be difficult to replace. But together, we can weather this storm, as we have all weathered so many over the years.

All the best,

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