Virtually all local arts performances and events in the state have been canceled in the face of the coronavirus crisis, meaning lost revenue for these organizations and tough decisions going forward regarding staffing and other budget issues. Other cultural institutions, like museums and libraries, are facing similar concerns as people hunker down at home in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.
The Greater Hartford Arts Council is collecting the results of a survey taken last week by local arts organizations to try to quantify those economic effects.
“So the survey asked, No. 1, how many events will be canceled? How many performances will be canceled?” said Cathy Malloy, CEO of the arts council. “We also asked if some of the organizations have outstanding contracts. What was the impact of those contracts being canceled? Did they have insurance to cover those contracts?”
The survey also asked arts organizations whether the cancellations will force them to lay off staff, and to project what their finances will look like in 30, 60 and 90 days from the time of the survey.
The questionnaire was requested by Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin. He has made investments in arts and cultural organizations an important part of his 15-year plan for the city.
“I am grateful that our community has an organization like the Greater Hartford Arts Council, which has intricate knowledge of the arts and cultural sector and can quickly help us assess the economic impact of this public health crisis,” Bronin said in a written statement. “Nearly 40% of Hartford residents identify arts and culture as our greatest strength, and there is no doubt our arts and cultural institutions will be hit hard in the coming weeks.”
Malloy said her organization is particularly focused on some of the smaller, community-based arts organizations.
“These are neighborhood arts and culture organizations that are serving children in after-school programming that are doing so much for our underserved community,” said Malloy. “We are getting emails every day now, “can you help us, can you help us?”
Malloy is concerned that the GHAC’s ability to help these organizations will be hindered by the effects of the coronavirus outbreak.
“A great deal of our money comes from an incredibly supportive and generous corporate community,” said Malloy. “Our corporate community now is dealing with layoffs and economic uncertainty.”
Still, Malloy expects GHAC to come up with creative solutions to minimize the economic blow to arts and culture.
Meanwhile, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is addressing more pressing concerns in this crisis and is also counting on the corporate community in that effort. Earlier this week, HFPG deposited $1 million of seed money into the COVID-19 Response Fund and is encouraging corporations and individuals to contribute.
HFPG President Jay Williams said his organization will be working with a network of local nonprofits to distribute the funds to the communities and individuals who are most affected by the pandemic.
“There will be immediate needs with respect to shelter, and food, emergency assistance with housing, perhaps utilities, health care, and a whole host of things,” said Williams.
He says the COVID -19 Response Fund does not mean the foundation is pivoting from its obligation to the arts.
“Our commitment to the arts is unwavering, even in the midst of this crisis,” said Williams. “That being said, we have to prioritize the limited resources we have.”
The COVID -19 Response Fund will issue its first round of grants in the coming weeks. Preliminary results of the GHAC survey will be shared with Bronin in the next day or two.