Okanagan arts organizations struggling to survive coronavirus pandemic

Click to play video: 'Pandemic a major financial blow to Okanagan arts groups'
Pandemic a major financial blow to Okanagan arts groups
WATCH: It's the one time that the show must not go on and because of that the pandemic is having a significant economic impact on Okanagan arts groups. Megan Turcato has more on how organizations are getting creative to get through challenging times while continuing to raise spirits – Apr 29, 2020

It’s the one time that the show must not go on, and because of that, the coronavirus pandemic is having a significant economic impact on Okanagan arts groups.

From cancelled art classes to postponed theatre productions, arts organizations are doing their part to flatten the curve, but they’re feeling the financial impact of the pandemic.

“It’s a 100 per cent revenue loss, so it is pretty devastating,” Vernon Community Arts Centre spokesperson Sheri Kunzli said.

“From a business standpoint, it’s just a huge financial loss,” she said. “Like a lot of the arts and culture groups out there, we are a non-profit, so coming back from this is going to be a lot of work.”

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There has been some government support and organizations are searching out grants to help them through the pandemic, but some arts organizations say when they reopen their operations will likely be different.

“It might be in a reduced fashion because we may not be able to do everything that we were doing all at once,” said Susan Brandoli, a spokesperson for Caetani Cultural Centre.

However, not every business or organization will survive.

Armstrong Dance Academy owner Susan Bensmiller said that she’s making the difficult decision to close for good because she’s concerned that after COVID-19, people will not have the same disposable income to spend on creative pursuits.

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The dance studio had been open for 14 years.

“We were looking at a good five to six months of paying overhead without any income and potentially having to refund people,” Bensmiller said.

“It was just number crunching. I could afford to do the refunds, but I couldn’t afford to do both,” she added.

“When we work in the arts, what you do and who you are, are one,” Bensmiller said. “And so when you are impacted with what you do, it’s brutal.”

Meanwhile, arts organizations that plan to continue long-term are finding creative ways to take art online, like planning virtual events or releasing tutorial videos.

“For people that have that equipment at home, they can follow along or for others it is just going to be some inspiration,” Kunzli said.

–with files from Megan Turcato

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