Published May 05, 2020 by A.J. Mistretta
Houston’s cultural arts organizations have been dealt a heavy blow by the coronavirus pandemic with millions in lost revenue and thousands now out of work. But as other local businesses begin to reopen, they may be able to help suffering arts institutions and independent artists survive the fallout.
The local arts and culture sector, which includes everything from museums and performing arts groups to independent musicians and artists, contributes approximately $1.1 billion to the region’s economy, according to the Houston Arts Alliance. The arts and culture organization estimates the sector accounts for nearly 26,000 local jobs.
But since mid-March HAA estimates the sector has lost $203 million in revenue and lost more than 5,600 jobs. Only 33% of individual artists polled in Harris County said they were confident they could meet their basic financial obligations in the month of May.
Lauren Hainley, disaster services program manager at HAA, said the entire arts community has been impacted in some way by the current situation. Hainley gave a status update and offered ways Houston companies could help the cultural sector during the Partnership’s Arts, Culture, Tourism & Sports Council on May 5.
HAA has reactivated a disaster services program it launched during Hurricane Harvey to assist artists. So far, the Greater Houston Area Arts Relief Fund has granted more than $150,000 to more than 400 artists in the area, with more than $100,000 additional funding still to be allocated.
But while monetary donations are important, “the best way to help artists and arts organizations survive is to give them something to do,” said Hainley.
Companies have recruited arts organizations to help make masks and other protective equipment for employees or create murals in the workplace. Hainley also encourages businesses to consider buying passes to museums or tickets to performances when they resume for their employees or customers. Another option is to sponsor livestream performances by local musicians or performing arts groups, which also helps generate publicity for the company.
“Art can help tie people to place,” Hainley said. “We can use it to make workplaces better and help the artists who need that assistance right now.”