As theaters and arts programs shut down around the country, what can arts lovers do to support their favorite activity?
At a time like this, in the midst of the coronavirus crisis and with the TPAC shuttered for the foreseeable future, the arts may seem like a luxury, something we can live without, at least for a while. But they are not. As we know from past crises, theaters are needed more than ever; witness the Golden Age of cinema during the Great Depression and World War II. Yet this crisis is different–we cannot even flock to the theater to find solace. And while these days movies can be streamed at home, live theater and other arts venues such as museums, concert halls, and art galleries are more vulnerable than ever.
Shuttered theaters mean no ticket sales, no audiences, no way to pay the actors, directors, musicians, set designers, costume designers, tech crew, and all the other professionals who are essential in creating a live show for our pleasure. Even large, long-established organizations such as the Oregon Shakespeare Festival are negatively affected: OSF has had to lay off 80 percent of its full-time staff, artists, and seasonal workers and offer a truncated season running from September 8 to November 1. This is a financial hit that not all theaters will be able to recover from. And that’s why now, more than ever, theaters need our support. If we want to maintain the benefits of the arts in our lives, then supporting artists and theaters right now is essential.
What are those benefits? They’re not tangible, like the food we eat or the clothes we wear. But psychically, emotionally, they are just as important. Those benefits are best summed up by the great American playwright Terrence McNally, who tragically died on March 29 at the age of 81 from complications of coronavirus. Last year, in his acceptance speech for his lifetime achievement Tony award, McNally stated, “Theater changes hearts…the world needs artists more than ever to remind us what truth and beauty and kindness really are.”
In a recent story from the Washington Post, Henry Timms, president and chief executive for the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, is quoted as saying, “The arts are such a human need. They help us find ourselves, and they help us find other people.”
In the same Washington Post story, Andrew Freiser, co-owner of a contemporary art gallery in New York City’s Chelsea district, is quoted as saying, “…if you have an interest in helping a young artist develop, this is a time to step up.”
Whether it’s a small and intimate venue such as the TPAC or a large venue such as the Lincoln Center, the arts need you. And you need the arts.
[PRESS RELEASE BY Templeton Performing Arts Center Foundation]