The recent decision by Salt Lake County to temporarily close its performing arts venues came as a tough blow to the arts industry.
Though it was an expected and necessary step in an attempt to slow the pandemic, Christmas won’t be the same without live music, dance and theater and the sense of celebration, reflection and joy that they bring — things that our community so desperately need right now.
The pandemic continues to be a grueling experience for so many of our businesses that depend on the revenue they would receive during the Christmas season. Our performing arts institutions are certainly no different. All depend on holiday ticket sales; some make the majority of their earned income for the entire year during the holidays.
At some point in the future, it will be necessary to enact an economic recovery plan, and there can be no economic recovery without an arts recovery.
Americans for the Arts reports that in 2019, the arts industry had a $6.2 billion economic impact in our state, making up 4.2% of Utah’s gross domestic product. (By comparison, the mining industry contributed $3 billion, or 2% of GDP.)
Our performing arts institutions are an integral part of the economic ecosystem, having a $300 million annual economic impact in Salt Lake City alone, and supporting 40,000 jobs statewide (26,000 of which are in Salt Lake County). The crowds that patronize performing arts venues also spend money at area bars, restaurants, businesses, parking lots, hotels and more, all of which cannot fully recover without the arts.
Just as it is important to support our local restaurants and cafes by getting takeout, and local small businesses by ordering locally or purchasing gift cards, please don’t forget about the arts institutions and artists who live and work among us. You can show your support by making a donation, buying a gift certificate, viewing an online performance, or making a plan to see a show once it’s safe to do so.
Musicians, actors and dancers will play an essential role in the emotional healing and celebration that will take place when we can safely congregate again. Our community must not let these treasured cultural institutions and artists fall victim to the pandemic.
One thought — assuming it’s safe, why not plan a weeklong celebration over the summer to visit together again, see shows, eat out and shop? It may be just the jump-start businesses and institutions will need coming out of the pandemic.
Perhaps, Christmas in July?
Keith Carrick, Salt Lake City, is the principal percussionist of the Utah Symphony and president-elect of the American Federation of Musicians, Local 104