Pandemic Imperils Arts and Culture Industry
These organizations may be among the last to bounce back.
Analyzing data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the group found that arts and cultural activities employed 96,651 people either full or part-time in 2017.
But state estimates now show that 33.9 percent of those employed in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector in Wisconsin filed initial claims for unemployment between March 15 and July 5 of this year, according to the report.
“These organizations can’t really make events financially work if they’re not filling the venues,” said lead author Joe Peterangelo.
The report found that Wisconsin provides the least amount of state aid in support of arts and cultural activities than any of the surrounding Midwestern states. Additionally, some states have taken extra steps to provide emergency support for the arts this year, including the Arts for Illinois Relief Fund and the Iowa Arts and Culture Emergency Relief Fund.
“Lawmakers in neighboring states have taken action to ease the pain, and such consideration may now be merited by state policymakers in Wisconsin,” the study says.
“These organizations are unique and more difficult to replace than many other business types,” Peterangelo said. “If you lose your theater or your orchestra, it’s not an easy thing to rebuild, and they contribute not only economically but to the quality of life of our community.”
Several large arts organizations in Wisconsin received PPP loans of at least $1 million each: The Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts in Milwaukee and the Overture Center Foundation in Madison.
“We all want to get back to work, we all want to start earning our living, we all are in the entertainment industry. We miss making theater, people miss us,” Clements said. “But obviously we have to be responsible to each other and make sure we’re safe.”
But Clements is hopeful that live arts programming will be able to bounce back, when it’s safe.
“The theater is about gathering, it’s about the shared experience that we have, and the loss of that has been immeasurable,” he said.
Policy Forum Report: Wisconsin’s Arts And Culture Industry Threatened By Pandemic was originally published by Wisconsin Public Radio.
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