PARKER: COVID-19 Threatens Existence of Arts Group

Here we are in late June and the COVID-19 virus is still keeping our lives turned upside down. You’ve read where many of us have shared our concerns on numerous occasions about the impact this pandemic has had on families and businesses. A while back, I wrote about my concerns for industries like retail, our restaurants and in general, our small businesses. The orders to close, or in some cases limit their openings, have severely affected them all.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about our arts and entertainment venues and the negative impacts these organizations are facing both in reduction of jobs and the lost revenue they will never see. Think about just downtown Dayton, our traditional hub for performing arts and entertainment. And what do you think about all the visual arts organizations who are suffering and can we help keep them strong enough to survive this crisis?

Victoria Theatre and the Schuster Center and the groups making up what we now call DAYTON LIVE have really suffered these last few months. The performing arts groups have had to reduce or furlough most of their staff and the loss of revenue will probably be in excess of $25 million if they are unable to open during calendar year 2020.

Baseball? Don’t forget Dragons baseball. Twenty years of sold-out seasons, a national record I might add, is now in peril. The Dragons impact is also in excess of $25 million during its season which also includes food, parking, workers and such … not just what’s inside the ballpark. What about all those restaurants and bars who have been hurt because of no games or no concerts or Broadway shows?

I think about downtown because I love downtown, but then my mind races to the other venues that I’m sorely missing. Like the Huber Heights’ Rose or how about Kettering’s Fraze, or other live music, plays and theaters. They all matter and they are all getting hammered by this virus and its regulations.

For some, they say the best cure will be that magical vaccine. Probably so. But waiting that long will surely crush and destroy too many of our favorite go-to spots that bring us joy and respite. We must get past this because the loss of a season’s business and having to wait another whole year (baseball? Rose? Fraze?) is just unbearable for many of us and a never-to-be-regained financial catastrophe for those businesses. Some will close their doors forever because no matter what happens in 2021 … it will be too much, too late in 2020.

Your charitable contributions can help many like our not-for-profit arts community. But even our “Day of Giving” this past Thursday, June 25th may not be nearly enough. Their answer is simply ticket sales … butts in seats … elbow to elbow if possible. And until we can get back to buying tickets and going through the turnstiles, our friends who provide us with great music and laughter and pleasure and pride will all be in a critical, life-support condition.

I hope you will find a way to start coming back to many of our events as they open. For some, they have lost their entire seasons and contracts. But for others, they are trying to reopen their doors as soon as they can and provide us with great entertainment while maybe hoping to survive. I hope you will help. Wear a mask if you have to, I’ll try to recognize you with it on. Social distance if you must, I’ll try to say hello loud enough so you can hear me. Just help. Just do something! I’m tired of this virus trying to run my life. I’m taking some action … I’m going to a concert.

Phillip L. Parker, CAE, CCE
President and CEO
Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce

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