People making their way into downtown Fergus Falls this week may notice some buildings in the evening bathed in red light. A Center for the Arts (AC4TA) and Lake Region Arts Council (LRAC) are participating in a nationwide event called Red Alert RESTART meant to bring awareness to how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the arts and events industry and to urge Congress to pass the RESTART Act.
The event is organized by We Make Events, a newly formed coalition of trade bodies, businesses, unions and live events workers trying to raise awareness and advocate for the public-events sector during the pandemic. According to a Brookings Institute report examining COVID-19’s impact on America’s creative economy (film, advertising, fashion, musicians, artists, performers and designers), the fine and performing arts industries will be the hardest hit industry with estimated losses of almost 50% of all jobs in the industry.
On Sept. 1, buildings around the U.S. and parts of Canada will be illuminated with red lights, including AC4TA and LRAC, as well as places in the Twin Cities like the Minnesota Opera, Target Center, The Guthrie, Xcel Energy Center, U.S. Bank Stadium and Stone Arch Bridge. While the event is scheduled specifically for Sept. 1, AC4TA and LRAC will keep their lights on for the remainder of the week.
The RESTART Act that the campaign is urging Congress to pass extends the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which closed Aug. 8, to help small businesses keep employees on the payroll. The campaign’s other goal is to expand the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Federal Unemployment Compensation programs. “The RESTART bill is something of a simple bill, it is asking for additional PPP money and money for artists, and it’s not just artist organizations, it’s also the industry-- museums and art galleries and all of those folks. It’s a piece of a bill that is out there helping those of us who are anticipating being some of the very last organizations able to reopen,” says Michael Burgraff, executive director of AC4TA.
He adds that the event is timely, since Columbia Artists Management Inc. (CAMI), an international talent management agency that was founded in 1930, announced this week that they were shutting down. “As an artist management agency, we have used them many times, and I’m afraid COVID has done them in. This is now putting hundreds and hundreds of artists scrambling to find a new agent as well,” says Burgraff. “Our industry is indeed suffering.”
AC4TA and LRAC will have explanations for the lights on their doors as well as on their Facebook page. Although AC4TA has had to cancel many of their live shows, they’ve been able to adapt somewhat with some outdoor concerts and online live shows. “Especially the local artists that we have hired to come in and do a fifty-fifty split with us with some of our live concerts, they’ve been so super and incredibly appreciative because they have virtually nothing else coming in,” says Burgraff. “I know of one area artist who is actually delivering groceries because all of their gigs were canceled. We can say canceled or postponed, whatever it is, they’re still not working. There is no income coming in.”