Performing Arts Representatives Warn Creative Economy Needs Help – Deadline

Creative economy advocates – from the head of a performing arts center to a venue owner, actor and Actors’ Equity executive – lobbied Congress today to shore up the industry before may it be too late in the midst of an ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

“We can’t let the creative infrastructure of our economy disappear,” said Carson Elrod, actor and co-founder of Be An #ArtsHero/Arts Workers United, during a hearing before the House Small Business Committee. He has traveled his theatrical career since March 2020, a cycle of departures and cancellations (most recently the alchemist off-Broadway at New World Stages) in an industry where workers are still suffering severe financial fallout from Covid-related shutdowns even as government assistance programs have dried up.

“The human need to come together, to find cultural experiences will be enormous after this. We need Congress to move so that arts workers can remain arts workers in the 21st century,” he said, running forcefully for a new government job as arts and culture secretary. The idea has been floated and is needed to develop guidelines that “will stabilize us and put a floor under us” and broaden the eligibility requirements, Elrod said, especially as we may see variant after variant. This should start with a GAO-like report “to take an in-depth, granular look at what happened and what will happen.”

It might go without saying, but he and others, including House members on the committee, said it anyway – the industry, which accounted for 4.1% of GDP before the pandemic and employs 5.2 million people across the country plus approximately $100 billion the ripple impact for hotels, restaurants, bars, parking lots, Ubers and other local businesses is worth saving.

PPP Loans, Save Our Stages, Shuttered Venue Operators Grants have seen many people through the shutdown. But as the recent Broadway convulsions show (nine Broadway shows have closed since December, some permanently, others until spring), the pain is far from over at a company where remote work n is not an option.

“The reality is that without the sacrifices of artists, and without the infusion of state and federal dollars, as well as the generosity of our donors and members of the public, we would not exist, and I would not be testifying before you today. today,” said Nataki Garrett, artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon. The festival had to lay off 90% of its employees and cancel 829 performances as well as community engagement and education initiatives. “I’m haunted by the choices we’ve had to make to keep OSF afloat,” she said, adding that SVOG was too complex – “different from state to state and bank to bank.” the other”. She suggested streamlining the process, freeing up $2 billion that remains in circulation and extending the time to spend it.

“The wounds the pandemic has inflicted on the arts economy are deep and painful. If we want the industry to return to pre-COVID trends and continue to be an economic driver for local communities, these businesses need more support and investment,” acknowledged committee chair Nydia Velázquez (D -NY). “Investing in the creative economy will help this crucial sector recover while fueling overall economic growth.”

Sandra Karas, actress and secretary-treasurer of the Actors’ Equity Association, has called on Congress to pass the Performers’ Parity Tax Act (PATPA) that will allow performers to deduct out-of-pocket expenses necessary to seek work and stay current in the industry. from agent and manager fees to transportation for auditions, website maintenance, portraits, video reels, which can be 20-30% of gross income.