Local arts and entertainment organizations across the region joined forces to raise awareness about their industry’s financial plight on Red Alert Day of Action on Tuesday, Sept. 1.
More than 5,000 buildings across North America were illuminated in red. This includes nearly 20 venues in the Dayton region. The illumination took place from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m.
Why light up red?
The goal is to raise public awareness that the live events Industry is on “Red Alert” for its survival and to raise awareness about the Save Our Stages and RESTART Act as well as extending Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). An estimated 12 million people in the live event industry are currently unemployed due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Red Alert organizers. Nearly 47% of Ohio’s arts and events industry workers are unemployed, which is about 300,000.
“There’s never been a time in recorded history that the entire entertainment industry across the world has shuttered,” said Steve Williams, member of IATSE Local 66 and lighting designer for the Schuster Center. “People don’t realize how many people it takes to do these events. Over 100 local stagehands handle the Trans-Siberian Orchestra productions at the Nutter Center. It takes 40 or 50 local stagehands to handle a Broadway tour at the Schuster Center. If we lose stagehands, electricians, actors, musicians, and more it will be catastrophic to the industry. There is a specialized knowledge in what we do whether performers or technicians. If they leave us and can’t hang on due to financial assistance, the industry will have lost a tremendous amount of institutional memory and talent.”
Williams said that without extra legislation and relief, performing arts groups may not recover.
“Once they’re gone, they’re never coming back. It’s taken some organizations nearly 100 years to build what they have. For any group to die because of lack of revenue is a shame. It would be a great tragedy,” he said.
Dayton Live, which owns and operates Schuster Center, Victoria Theatre, Metropolitan Arts Center, Loft Theatre, PNC Arts Annex, and The Arts Garage, is one of the groups participating in the initiative.
“These 12 million people who work in the live events industry need support from federal and state governments as soon as possible or we risk doing permanent damage to an industry that has a huge economic impact,” said Ty Sutton, President and CEO of Dayton Live, in a news release. “The Red Alert RESTART Night aims to be a visual catalyst. We must act now and urge our senators and representatives to include policies that extend a lifeline to the live events industry and its workers.”
Dayton Live, a not-for-profit, laid off or furloughed 85% of its staff in May.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced last week that performance venues can reopen at approximately 15% capacity. But local arts groups say these guidelines are too restrictive to be financially viable. Dayton Live is still grappling with laying off or furloughing 85 percent of its staff in May. Other venue operators have done the same across the Miami Valley and across the country.
“When you’re out of work, sometimes you can apply your skills with another company or even in another industry,” Williams noted. “When you work in the arts and events industry, especially as a stagehand, that’s really difficult to do — because everywhere you’d go for work is closed too. That’s why extending Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is so needed. Ohio’s arts and events industry has the highest unemployment rate in the state — nearly 47% — that’s about 300,000 people. More than the leisure and hospitality sector or even restaurants and bars.”
Wright State is among the local groups and organizations participating in Red Alert Day of Action.
“Wright State University Theatre is eager to participate in the Red Alert awareness campaign drawing attention to the many workers in the entertainment and events industry who are struggling,” echoed Joe Deer, Professor and Chair of Wright State University’s Department of Theatre, Dance and Motion Pictures. “Many of our alumni work actively in these fields as producers, technicians and designers and have been unemployed for almost a year and a half. We know it is not safe to begin public performances yet. So, we’re encouraging our elected representatives to help this part of the economy, a group that will probably be among the last to return to work.”
The Dayton Art Institute, which has reopened under limited capacity, will be joining in the effort.
“It is more important than ever that the arts lift each other up and support one another,” said Michael Roediger, director and CEO of Dayton Art Institute. “We know how difficult it has been to have the museum closed, and now open only limited days, but performing arts venues have been dark with no end in sight. We have to find a way to safely reopen these venues including our own Rose Auditorium. We stand united with all of our arts colleagues and especially our performing arts friends during this difficult time.”
Levitt Pavilion Dayton encourages the community to join in the effort.
“The arts are an integral part of our community, not only providing a creative space for us to experience a live arts experience, but also a formidable economic driver,” added Lisa Wagner, Executive Director of Levitt Pavilion. “We are uniting to show we need our community to use their voices and push for RESTART to be passed. We are not just brick and mortar venues, rather an ecosystem that now has the largest unemployment in the state of Ohio due to our stages being dark. We need the arts more than ever in our community. So, I ask, will you join us?”
For more information, visit SaveOurStages.com or ExtendPUA.org.
LOCAL VENUES THAT WILL LIGHT UP RED
Participating venues and businesses include:
⋅ The Arcade
⋅ Dayton Art Institute
⋅ Benjamin & Marian Schuster Performing Arts Center
⋅ Victoria Theatre
⋅ Metropolitan Arts Center and The Loft Theatre
⋅ PNC Arts Annex
⋅ The Arts Garage
⋅ Dayton Masonic Center
⋅ Dayton Theatre Guild
⋅ Hobart Arena
⋅ Levitt Pavilion
⋅ Liberty Tower
⋅ The Rose Music Center
⋅ University of Dayton Arena
⋅ Wright State University Nutter Center
⋅ Wright State University Creative Arts Center
⋅ Clark State Performing Arts Center
The community is invited to post photos of the various venues lit in red onto social media Tuesday night using the hashtags #WeMakeEvents #RedAlertRESTART #ExtendPUA