Arts & Entertainment

The threat COVID-19 is placing on the local arts scene

On Mar. 10, Governor Inslee placed a ban on gatherings greater than 250 people in order to try to combat the spread of COVID 19. Then on Mar. 23, announcing his “stay home, stay healthy” order, Inslee called for a ban on all social gatherings and closures of businesses aside from those deemed essential. Initially the order was set to last two weeks but has since been extended until May 4. 

“Before the recent Shelter in Place mandate, we were making sure we sanitized everything in the venue before and after each event and practice as much social distancing as we could,” said Tom Long, the president of Real Art Tacoma.

As Tacoma began to seemingly shut down in wake of these orders, The Ledger was able to speak to Tacoma Arts Live, The Tacoma Dome, Real Art Tacoma, Alma Mater and McMenamins, all being venues that have halted business until further notice to be in accordance with the recent mandates 

“Nearly 60 staff aren’t working and are on temporary unemployment until we can reopen. Artists and organizations around town that depend on the use of our space for events and meetings are no longer able to use it,” says Alma Mater founder and director Jason Heminger. 

As the future of these businesses are still up in the air due to the uncertainty of a set date as to when things will be returning to normal, they’re working diligently and hard to ensure that when things do open the arts will come back in full swing. But with employees being laid off, musicians unable to play or tour and all the behind the scenes workers unemployed at this time as well, the unpredictability of the future of the music scene is unnerving for many. 

Long also notes that Real Art Tacoma is “at the mercy of the city,” while he and the rest of the staff “are going to remain positive and hope for the best possible outcome. Our number one concern is the safety of our staff, friends, family, and the city at large. Let’s all be safe and responsible.”

Venues are pushing to postpone shows and encouraging ticketholders to hold on to their tickets in hopes that the artists will be able to revisit in the somewhat near future. 

David Fischer, Executive Director of Tacoma Arts Live, mentioned the struggles they have endured as a performing arts venue. “We have seen over 50 events from March to May cancelled or postponed due to COVID19 and this has resulted in unprecedented revenue loss of an estimated $3 million if the closures stay in effect through June 30,” Fischer said. 

As a non-profit organization, like many other Arts & Culture organizations in the city, Fischer also discussed that Tacoma Arts Live has been struggling with approaches to maintain their services without fully depleting funds and laying off staff. 

While we can remain optimistic and hopeful that we have reached the peak breakout of the virus, the music scene has undoubtedly been placed on hold during this time. Kim Bedler, Tacoma Events & Venues Director, discussed possibilities for the future during the aftermath of the virus outbreak. “The Tacoma Venues & Events team is working with promoters and event planners on postponed events at both the Tacoma Dome and the Greater Tacoma Convention Center. We are optimistic that the vast majority will be re-scheduled and many dates are already confirmed for later in 2020 or in 2021,” Bedler said. 

Meanwhile, as noted earlier, there’s no exact say as to when business will resume to normal, and as a result few have managed to maintain a positive outlook and keep their eyes to the future to overcome the adversity together as a larger community. 

Jimi Biron, the Director of Music at McMenamins, provided a hopeful outlook in these times. “Our hotel, restaurants, bars, and  venue have been totally shut down, our doors are closed. From the music side, however, we are busier than ever,” Biron said. “The music industry is expecting a full recovery and planning concerts and tours for later in the year and into 2021. We have never had as many dates held, shows confirmed, this far in advance before.”

Until we can positively ensure this recovery, efforts and relief funds are continuously being established to support these communities. Sweet Relief is a support fund for musicians and individuals with musical careers of all kinds that are struggling in light of the pandemic. Furthermore, provides information and resources available for business related ventures in Tacoma in order to help out with recent hardships. But most importantly, let us not discredit the importance of nor forget to reach out and check in with our local businesses when they need us most to ensure they’ll be available in the future when we need them too.

Last updated: 4/15/2020 @ 10:53 am