Cincinnati Opera’s news yesterday that it must cancel its 2020 Summer Festival — the company’s 100th anniversary — was just the latest in an ongoing wave of arts cancellations due to COVID-19. Because of extended stay-at-home orders and closures, it was literally impossible to begin set-building and rehearsing, let alone fly in the international stars who were coming from Italy and the Czech Republic.
I doubt that entire seasons have ever been canceled for such a plague, although world wars have interrupted some. Of the many arts organizations that I have interviewed this month, a few leaders have predicted to me, that, until people feel comfortable being with other people in a theater, museum or a concert hall (and you can add to that, restaurants and stadiums), they will not return. And that won’t happen until there is a vaccine.
As Ensemble Theatre’s D. Lynn Meyers tells me in Friday’s Business Courier, we all thought things would be closed for a weekend, and then it would be back to normal. Now we talk about the “new normal.”
I began observing how the coronavirus was impacting our city’s freelance musicians about a month ago, when restaurants closed, and musicians began streaming their music live from empty bars, for tips. That article, “Virtual Reality,” on April 3, included some jazz musicians, as well. Trumpeter Matt Anklan, an adjunct at Miami University, said that 60 percent of his income is from freelance jobs — now completely gone.
A spot check of Cincinnati’s major arts organizations, “Critical Stage” on April 10, told stories of how groups are struggling to hang onto their staffs even as they tally their losses. Losses will be big. ArtsWave — which was just midway through its annual, $12.4 million campaign when the virus hit — predicts that losses in Cincinnati’s arts community could top $30 million if there is no arts activity all summer.
Still, there was a note of optimism, despite the expected red ink. Cincinnati Art Museum’s Cameron Kitchin told me, “The arts are about connecting and inspiring. What greater time of need do we have for inspiration and connection than right now, in this time of social distancing and flickering hope? If we look at what the arts to able to provide for humanity, this is a moment where we are called to action.”
Friday’s article (April 17) is about how small and mid-sized arts groups in our region are coping. There will be more stories to come, including some with good news of how people are stepping up in a time of crisis.
As I wrote in a column at the very beginning of the trickle of online arts offerings — now a tsunami — the arts offer escape, joy and comfort. Don’t forget, these organizations can’t wait to welcome you back, live and in person, when we all reach the other side.