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Arts & Culture

Despite Phase Two Of Reopening, Connecticut Arts Organizations Still Struggling

Hartford Stage
Courtesy Hartford Stage
It may be a while before performance organizations like Hartford Stage are allowed to reopen safely.

Three months of COVID-related measures continue to take their toll on arts and culture organizations in the state. The prolonged closure of Connecticut’s performing arts venues and museums has cost those organizations nearly $29 million, according to the national arts advocacy organization Americans for the Arts. 

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The weekly snapshot of how arts and culture organizations nationwide are affected by COVID-19 also found that 96% of the 402 Connecticut arts and culture organizations surveyed canceled events and performances due to coronavirus, amounting to nearly 2 million empty seats.

“What we have always been told to do is have the public come in, engage them in interactive activities, have them stay in one place as long as possible to listen to your content,” said Elizabeth Shapiro, director of the Connecticut Office of the Arts. “None of these things are OK now. So they have to figure out not just a whole new business model, but a whole new way of engaging with their audience.”

Museums were able to open with modifications last week, but performing arts organizations still have to wait.

According to the latest guidance from the state of Connecticut, movie theaters are allowed to operate at 50% capacity and proper spacing of seats, but there is no plan yet for the opening of other indoor performance venues. The state will allow indoor private gatherings of up to 50 people by mid-July, but it’s unclear whether that can apply to performance venues.

Shapiro said despite these challenges, some arts organizations are finding ways to make it work.

“I think that organizations who can pivot to being outdoors, and doing things in outdoor spaces, that has been one solution for organizations. And then, I think, take what you do, and do it online. And I will say from what I have heard, the organizations that have moved ahead with their online fundraisers have been making their goals, which I find fascinating,” said Shapiro.

The Americans for the Arts report also found that Connecticut organizations have had to lay off 871 employees and furlough 874. Only 59% of the organizations say they are confident they will survive the impact of COVID-19.

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