ALBANY — Lawmakers are preparing to take a look at the state of the arts in New York and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on cultural institutions.
A virtual roundtable discussion is scheduled for Wednesday, giving legislators a chance to gather information about the contributions of arts and cultural organizations to the state’s economy as they prepare a report recommending policy changes to boost their recovery.
“These important discussions and insights from experts and stakeholders will help state government better understand the effect the pandemic is having on our arts and cultural events, and will help us support these vital parts of New York’s identity and economy," said state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers).
Museums, Broadway shows and other art venues have been devastated by the COVID-19 crisis, and prolonged closures have had ripple effects across the economy.
A July 2020 report by the Center for an Urban Future, titled “Recovery Signs, New Lows: NYC Employment By Industry Since the Outbreak of the Coronavirus,” estimates the arts and entertainment sectors and related industries have had a 69% decline in employment due to the pandemic. Museums and similar institutions have suffered a 34% loss in jobs.
State Sen. Jose M. Serrano (D-Bronx, Manhattan), chairman of the Senate Committee on Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks & Recreation, said the sector has been especially hard hit by the crisis.
“Not only does this industry serve as a major economic engine and job producer, but the arts are transformative, uplifting and educating, while building cultural bridges for all New Yorkers,” he said.
Representatives from some of the city’s most renowned institutions are slated to appear during the virtual hearing, including officials from museums and galleries that have only recently reopened at reduced capacities.
Museums and cultural institutions in the five boroughs opened at 25% occupancy with pre-set staggered entry, timed ticketing, mandatory face covering and controlled traffic flow back in late August after shutting down in the spring.
The American Alliance of Museums, meanwhile, is asking Congress to provide billions in federal aid, saying museums across the nation are collectively losing at least $33 million a day.
“Museums and their workforces across America have been diligently filling the gaps in their communities as our educational, health care and social systems have struggled to cope with the impacts of COVID-19, all while enduring insurmountable financial pressure themselves," Laura Lott, alliance president and CEO, said in a recent statement.
Serrano and other state lawmakers are also calling on Congress to take up the federal legislation, Save Our Stages, which would provide six months of Small Business Administration grants to live music venue operators that have taken a hit during COVID-19 and millions in funds for struggling theaters that have been dark for months.
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), a co-sponsor of Save Our Stages, continues to push for passage of the measure.
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