By Jeep Bryant
When the COVID-19 pandemic began to take shape in March, the arts and cultural sector was the first to go dark across the U.S. I always thought that it would be the last to reopen.
That now may not be the case.
On May 23, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston was the first major American art museum to reopen to the public. According to a report in The New York Times, the museum made all the necessary precautions to keep their staff and visitors safe: markings on the floor for social distancing, checking the temperature of guests as they enter the building, requiring face masks and more.
Acknowledging that reopening dates are a moving target depending on each state and county, various museums in Florida, Kansas and Ohio have also set their dates to reopen.
Locally, the Charlotte Symphony announced its three-week Summer Festival beginning August 7 that includes a free community concert on August 16 at Knight Theater at Levine Center for the Arts. We are in ongoing discussions with cultural organizations and artists as they navigate their reopening plans.
While every state is different and we wait for a vaccine, this is a glimmer of hope that the sector may find safe and practical ways to come back.
I am amazed at the tenacity, creativity and innovation of artists and organizations as they pivot to providing virtual experiences that help us learn, grow, connect and have fun while we all navigate COVID-19. To see people engaged in diverse experiences from private music instruction, African drum circles, and addressing the racial disparities amplified by the pandemic, we are reminded of the value the cultural sector brings to so many.
June 1 marks the 30-day countdown to the end of the fiscal year for ASC and the arts, science and history organizations we fund. The sector has been hit hard by COVID-19, with estimated economic losses of $60 million per quarter. This includes direct revenue impact and the loss of economic activity that our cultural sector generates across Charlotte-Mecklenburg. For many organizations we support, the next round of ASC operating support grants will serve as a critical lifeline. Arts, science and history organizations depend on unrestricted support from ASC to fulfill their missions while responding to the pandemic and navigating the challenges ahead.
We continue to marshal public and private resources to invest for FY21. We are grateful to the city of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County for their continued investment in ASC as part of their annual budgets. We continue to seek contributions from businesses and foundations and thank those that have supported us thus far. We also need you. I ask that you please consider making a gift to ASC and help us invest in the cultural organizations and artists that are giving their all for you.
Continue to stay safe and be comforted by our arts and cultural community.