How the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting arts organizations

. March 19, 2020.
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The show must go on, unless, of course, there is a pandemic that compels us to stay six feet away from each other. From schools and libraries to public sporting events and Ohio’s delayed primary voting, the Toledo arts community certainly isn’t the only sector of our region experiencing cancellations and postponements.

With all of these closures came frantic trips to grocery stores— for those of you on your last roll of toilet paper, sorry, there’s none left anywhere— where we began to see more and more people wearing masks. Parents who are able to work from home are doing so with their kids hanging around, and those without remote options are desperately trying to find childcare. And then there’s the fact that a lack of access to school meals is impacting food-insecure kids.

So, clearly, the first thing on our minds is probably not the cancelled events we’d been looking forward to before the pandemic began to escalate quickly. Refund and done, right? Well, you might want to think about how to alleviate the strain for these institutions as well. After all, behind each production and venue’s operation, there are many people who are doing everything they can not only to stay afloat and pay their bills, but to thrive once this is all over. We asked a few people in the Toledo arts community to weigh in on what they are doing to stay positive, and what the public can do to remain supportive.

THE Modern Dance Company
Non-profit THE Modern Dance Company sent out an announcement on March 12 that their Fosse and Jazz Revue, scheduled to be performed at The Toledo Repertoire Theater this month, would be postponed until the summer. The Company’s president and cofounder, Allie Batey, noted that those who bought tickets should exchange them for the summer show rather than ask for a refund if possible.

Batey has found patrons of the Rep’s response to this crisis encouraging.

“On the Rep page— because they’re having to postpone a lot of their other shows and rehearsals to prep for different things— people have been asking, ‘Okay, we can’t get tickets right now, but can we still make a donation?’ It’s so nice that people are even willing to consider donating to keep the arts alive. You can make donations to the Rep on their website and to us on our website.”

Batey says that she and her Company members are trying to remain positive, and to keep in mind that this postponement doesn’t mean cancellation forever. So, while Fosse and Jazz Revue is experiencing a delay, it can be seen as a way to be even more prepared when it is performed during the summer.

“It’s just a little pause,” she says. “ It’s going to make the show even better because it’s going to give us more time to work on things. Everybody will resume their shows and their activities once we get back to it. These shows will happen, these shows will come back. We are all in this together.”

The Valentine Theatre
Matt Lentz, Director of Marketing and PR at The Valentine Theatre, is dealing with the fact that — if the statewide ban on gatherings of 100 or more people continues until May— half of their presenting season will have been cancelled or postponed.

“It’s going to be very very difficult for the arts organizations like our performing arts organization to pull through,” Lentz says. “But we’ll see what happens, and what kind of government aid there will be, if there’ll ever be any insurance bailout, which I don’t know if there will at this point. It will be interesting. I don’t think any of us know how it’s going to pan out.”

Shows that have been put on hold or postponed at the Theatre include Finding Neverland, performances by the Toledo Jazz Orchestra, and Toledo School for the Arts’ The Graffiti Project, to name a few. Lentz acknowledges that, while supporting the arts is understandably not the first thing on people’s minds during this health crisis, The Valentine Theatre always welcomes the support of those who attend these shows.

Anyone who has bought tickets to the Valentine’s postponed shows will be refunded if they wish, of course, but they would like to suggest holding off on doing so while they try to reschedule.

When it comes to supporting the arts during this difficult time, he thinks the key right now is patience.

“I think when people get into the mindset of helping people beyond those whose health is being impacted potentially by this crisis, they can call to see what they can do, where they can donate, either with their time or financially,” Lentz says, reflecting that “it’s going to be tough for everyone, not just the arts. It’s going to be very impactful, and we’ll just have to wait and see how we get through it all.”

The Arts Commission
Toledo’s Arts Commission released a statement on March 12 following the ban of large gatherings, announcing that all its events will be cancelled through March 31. The Arts Commission’s executive director, Marc D. Folk, stressed the importance of what this means for our local performers and artists.

“Our region’s artists, arts organizations and cultural infrastructure contribute so much to our community and yet function inside of a fragile ecosystem that requires support and investment, even during the best of times,” Folk says, recommending that those who’ve purchased tickets turn that purchase into a donation instead of simply asking for a refund, as many of these organizations “are in the final stretch of their seasons and rely on this income to make budget. They need our support now to ensure they will be here when this passes.”

Another way the public can alleviate the strain caused by coronavirus-related isolation is to buy from local and regional creatives, as these gig economy workers will be heavily impacted financially by the crisis.

Though this strain is difficult, our region’s strong foundation in supporting the arts will help us weather this storm. As Folk puts it, “one of the great things about Northwest Ohio is how we come together. Whether your passion or community is the arts or another interest area, we all need to support and donate to the people and organizations that we care about now.”