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Springfield Arts Council explains the impact of the pandemic on the arts industry

Published: Oct. 1, 2021 at 6:22 AM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - The arts play a major role in the Springfield community, but the pandemic has negatively impacted the industry.

According to the Community Focus Report, theaters and galleries reported strong audience engagement in 2019. The Springfield symphony even reported a 30% increase in ticket sales. That all changed as pandemic safety protocols limited capacity, ticket sales dropped and revenue was almost nonexistent. Most venues reduced capacity as low as 25% occupancy. The Gillioz theatre reported a 91% decrease in revenue.

“The pandemic has been hard on so many industries and the arts and culture industry certainly is no different,” said Springfield Arts Council Executive Director Leslie Forrester. “Because a lot of what we do is predicated on the idea that we’re gathering with large groups of people shoulder to shoulder, in a theater, or in a concert space to have those shared experiences.”

Springfield has several theaters and galleries where locals can display their work. Several organizations reported a loss in revenue but credited the community for continued support and saw an increase in donations.

“A lot of people who would have purchased tickets or had already purchased tickets for an event didn’t request a refund,” said Forrester. “They turned it into a donation and we saw a lot of donations in the $25-$200 range, more people than typical. Individuals stepped up and said I care about this, I want to make sure that my favorite theater or gallery remains open, so I’m going to give you what I can.”

Most venues limited capacity to 50%, but only 25-30% of seats were filled once theaters accommodated for distance seating. Forrester says she hopes that is becoming a thing of the past.

“We’re at a point where everybody is starting to build plans again,” said Forrester. “For 18 months, we really didn’t feel like we could predict anything. We’re going to start seeing more houses full of audience members, which is a healthy indicator of our ability to retain our arts community.”

One way to show support for local artists is to participate in the First Friday Art Walk on the first Friday of the month from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in downtown Springfield.

For more information on the Community Focus Report click here.

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