IDEAS: Millions in revenue lost, 90 percent of our employees laid off. Can stage be saved?

This opinion piece by Ty Sutton, president and CEO of Dayton Live, appeared on the Dayton Daily News Ideas and Voices page on Sunday, Aug. 9. Guest columnists were asked to reflect on how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted Dayton's arts community and what can be done to help. Other featured columns are linked below.

The impact of COVID-19 has been staggering for our entire country and will be felt for years to come. Nowhere is the economic impact more obvious than in the performing arts industry.

Our industry was amongst the first to close and will be one of the last to reopen due to the pandemic. The time to act is now.

Credit: VTA

Credit: VTA

Many may not realize that Dayton Live, formerly Victoria Theatre Association, is a not-for-profit local arts organization that owns and operates the Schuster Center, Victoria Theatre, Loft Theatre and PNC Arts Annex.

As not-for-profits, Dayton Live and our resident companies, The Human Race Theatre Company, the Dayton Performing Arts Alliance, and others rely on our donors and sponsors to help bridge the gap between ticket revenue and operating expenses.

But right now, the gap is simply too large – and it keeps growing. We’ve canceled hundreds of performances and events, and lost millions of dollars in revenue. We have laid off or furloughed nearly 90% of our employees.

The impact felt by downtown Dayton, the arts community and the region as a whole, is huge. Dayton Live’s venues are still closed with minimal revenue expected until 2021 at the earliest. These are unprecedented times and we need unprecedented help – from our community and from our government.

Because the performing arts will be one of the last industries to reopen, it is critical we have the resources to not only survive this period of “intermission,” but also that we are financially equipped to re-open. Drafted with bipartisan support, the Save Our Stages Act, along with the RESTART and ENCORES Acts, will provide grants to eligible organizations that meet appropriate requirements. The next round of PPP is welcomed but will not be enough to see us through.

Members of our community want to know how to help. Add your voices to millions of other Americans around the country in support of the Save Our Stages Act. The National Independent Venue Association supported bill would give financial assistance to independent venues.

Go to to learn more and let your voice be heard. The website lets you easily share your support of the arts with our elected officials.

Dayton is resilient and has always rallied behind its arts institutions. The Victoria Theatre has withstood fires, floods, civil unrest and pandemics. Through each challenge she has risen again. We trust through community support and unprecedented government aid, we can weather this current storm and continue to bring people together to celebrate our community.

Ty Sutton is president and CEO of Dayton Live one of the largest property owners in downtown Dayton.

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