Performing Arts

Foss: Hope to see performing arts return in 2021

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Categories: News, Sara Foss

Every once in a while, a friend sends me a link to an online concert featuring a favorite musician or band.

I always appreciate the gesture – it’s nice to know my friends are thinking about me – but I’ve never actually watched an online concert, even when it stars a performer I’d happily open up my wallet to see.

Even now, 10 months into a pandemic that has shuttered the nation’s concert halls and performing arts spaces, I just can’t get excited about watching a concert on my TV or computer. There’s nothing quite like live music, and I’m eagerly awaiting the day when our local music venues are up and running again.

But when will that be?

This is the question I ask myself whenever I pass by Proctors or the The Egg or Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

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These places have been dark for a long time, and will likely remain dark well into 2021.

The impact of these prolonged closures is a void – a lack of entertainment and enrichment that’s far-reaching and profound, but difficult to quantify.

While cleaning my desk recently I came across a small pile of unused concert tickets that I haven’t had the heart to throw away, even as it’s become increasingly clear that most of the events I planned to attend in 2020 will probably never be rescheduled.

For concert-goers like me, this lost year of performing arts has been a major bummer.

For performers, it’s been devastating.

According to a New York Times article from last week, unemployment in the arts has outpaced the hard-hit restaurant and retail industries, with millions of actors, dancers and musicians out of work.

“In many areas, arts venues – theaters, clubs, performance spaces, concert halls, festivals – were the first businesses to close, and they are likely to be among the last to reopen,” the article observes.

In Schenectady, Proctors laid off 80 percent of its staff in March, and currently employs 34 full-time staff members. In Albany, the Palace Performing Arts Center laid off its interim executive director in November. The Egg, at Empire State Plaza, also furloughed most of its staff.

One of my biggest hopes for 2021 is the return of the performing arts, and the energy and excitement they bring to our communities.

Arts and culture drive regional economies, boosting local businesses and downtowns and contributing greatly to our overall quality-of-life. They are a critical part of our infrastructure – one we’ll miss dearly if it disappears.

Fortunately, help for the arts community is on the way.

The stimulus package passed last week by Congress includes $15 billion for performing arts venues, giving them a much-needed lifeline.

Once the pandemic is over, I’m going to be ready to go to concerts, plays and other arts events again.

But I’ll only be able to do this if these venues survive.

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s.

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