Virginian-Pilot: Arts Need Support

Tom Quaintance, Rob Cross, Karen Philion & Russell Allen: Arts groups need support to survive crisis



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In this time of crisis, the need for stories — stories that move and entertain and challenge us — is obvious. The necessity of music that moves the soul and moves the spirit is crystalline. The desire to be taken out of ourselves has never been more achingly clear. Small wonder then, as we lock ourselves into self-distancing and quarantine, that we turn to recorded arts for escape. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime … even performing arts organizations are getting into the mix, offering recorded versions of their plays, operas, and music performances.

But recorded performances, seen on a small screen, can never replace the electrifying thrill of a live performance: the soaring sound of hundreds of voices and orchestra raised in Beethoven’s mighty Ode to Joy; an actor bringing a character’s soul to life on stage; a soprano singing a lover’s lament so perfectly; you feel the heartache as though it were your own … only live performance can provide this kind of exhilaration.

When the time comes when it is safe for us to go out again, to once again gather in large groups, we will turn to the performing arts for the same reasons we always have: for catharsis, stimulation, entertainment, a chance to laugh and cry and wonder … together.

But, will the performing arts be there?

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Hampton Roads performing arts organizations are faced with devastating revenue losses from cancelled performances and events. Right now, an eerie silence fills spaces that once hummed with activity — with none more eerie and silent than our region’s stages. Silent too are the school auditoriums and the classrooms where our artists have worked side by side with educators to awaken children’s minds to the arts, as well as history, literature, math and science.

The current financial needs of our community are great, and that includes local performing artists and the organizations that support them. Your support — in the form of contributions, ticket purchases or donations of unused tickets — is needed now to ensure that we will be able to light and fill those stages and enliven those classrooms again when this crisis has passed.

For every performer you see on stage, there are dozens of people behind the scenes: lighting designers, production crews, sound technicians, costume designers and wardrobe attendants, box office staff, ushers and more. These folks are also our neighbors and friends, who live, work, and raise their families in our community.

We need to preserve the future of live performing arts in Hampton Roads. And not just to save the livelihoods of the actors and singers, musicians and crews and staff, but to support the region’s economy on its long climb back to normal. The arts in Hampton Roads pump millions of dollars into the economy each year from residents and visitors. For every performance ticket purchased, hundreds more are spent on hotels, meals, shopping, and local transportation.

For our streets to be lively again with hope, our performing arts companies must reopen for business as soon it’s safe to do so.

As well as being an engine of joy, the arts drive the economy and culture of our community. A future without them would be bleak indeed. Restaurants, bars, hotels, and other local businesses are depending on us too.

We need your help to keep the performing arts alive in Hampton Roads. To find out how you can support local arts organizations, please visit the websites of our organizations listed below. If we all do what we can now, we will be able very soon to welcome you back to our theaters and concert halls, and to the schools and churches and community centers where we bring the joy of live performance.

Tom Quaintance is producing artistic director of the Virginia Stage Company. Rob Cross is executive director/Perry Artistic Director of the Virginia Arts Festival. Karen Philion is president and CEO of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. Russell Allen is president and CEO of the Virginia Opera