PRESS: ‘An unknown end.’ Louisville arts scene could lose $1.3M a day due to coronavirus closures

By Maggie Menderski for the Courier-Journal

March 20, 2020

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — I expected a showstopper as I sat in on Louisville Ballet’s rehearsal last week. A complicated lift or a mesmerizing spin, the kind of move that makes a dancer look as nimble as a piece of silk in the wind.

What I got instead was a pandemic, and all of sudden, Louisville’s art groups and the performance industry as we know it came to a screeching halt.

A showstopper, indeed.

One that could cost Louisville’s arts and culture industry $1.3 million per day in economic impact.

The financial ramifications of social distancing and closures from the growing coronavirus pandemic could last for years as ticket holders are seeking refunds for canceled shows. At the same time, some artists don’t know where next month’s rent is coming from.

The Art and Cultural Alliance’s coronavirus report dated this week shows Louisville’s cultural scene — which includes performing arts as well as museums and historical entities — supports 17,500 jobs and has an annual economic impact of $462 million on the city.

But instead, I’d watch a scenario play out where arts organizations throughout the city are tallying the loss of ticket sales, concessions, admissions and educational classes. The coronavirus caused a situation at the ballet that so many organizations throughout our country relate to — a show that just couldn’t go on.

“The earned revenue side comes to a near screeching halt,” Christen Boone, the president and CEO of Fund for the Arts, told me.

In these uncertain times, some cast, staff and crew members don’t know where their next paycheck is coming from, and the organizations are bracing for the loss of ticket sales and canceled fundraisers that could mean the difference between shut for a few weeks and long-term turmoil.

You can’t lift your dance partner into the air while keeping a safe 6-foot social distance.

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