Arts Groups Feeling Pinch

With no performances or shows, prolonged shutdown could be devastating

We asked a number of local arts organizations how they are coping with the shutdown because of concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Craig Wolf
Howland Cultural Center, Beacon

Not much is happening publicly here at our little nonprofit. We are an arts center that normally produces and presents performances and exhibits, largely administered by volunteers, most of whom are older, falling within the age zone of higher concern.

We can’t do what we normally do right now. The impact is hard for us not only because we must cancel near-term events, but because it is not yet clear when we will be able to go forward with events that are further out on our calendar. Every day has brought another conversation with a presenter, producer or renter about whether their plans can go forward, and so far, the answer has been “No.”

The impact of not producing events is a significant loss of revenue. It is through doing what we do that we earn a good chunk of our keep. We regret that the postponements include our annual gala. What’s left on the revenue side for now is donations. Thankfully, many friends have responded to our annual campaign, which we now call Friends of the Howland Center.

Alex Bloomstein
Ballet Arts Studio, Beacon

Our faculty and staff live, as most artists do, from paycheck to paycheck. So this situation will be extremely worrisome and stressful for them. More importantly, all of us are saddened by the impact this situation will have on our students. These dancers have been working diligently and with commitment all year on their craft, only to have their momentum abruptly interrupted. We are considering “video classrooms” but are aware that, because dance instruction is so immediate and interpersonal, we will have to work hard to make that platform effective.

Barbara DeSilva
The Chapel Restoration, Cold Spring

The Chapel Restoration is a small organization with a big architectural, historical and cultural presence. We will be deeply affected by this state of emergency, especially if it proves to be prolonged. We do not have paid staff. We can’t afford it — all of our activities and programs are administered by volunteers. But we are concerned about the performers and writers who will be unable to present their work. We often form unusually personal relationships with the artists who perform at the Chapel and we know that many of them will suffer financial hardship as a result of being unable to perform.

The Chapel Restoration itself will be severely impacted by the loss of revenue. We do not schedule programming and weddings during the winter months because of icy, windy conditions at our site. Events during our active season from April through November provide a major part of our revenue, through donations at free events and tickets sales at others. Maintaining our historic building and grounds in the absence of this revenue will be a challenge. And we regret the loss to the community of the high-quality programs we provide, including an increasing number of events featuring local talent.

We look forward to welcoming visitors and guests back to the Chapel as soon as possible and we send best wishes to all for a healthy outcome.

Amy Dul
Philipstown Depot Theatre, Garrison

Like everyone, we’re doing our best to cope with a new reality. Like many organizations whose mission is, in part, to bring people together, we have shut down. This spring’s Mainstage play, Morning’s at Seven, has been postponed until 2021, as well as our March and April events. With luck, we will reopen in June with a full and exciting schedule: Depot Docs: The Apollo on June 12; Night Train: An Evening of Storytelling on June 13; Depot Dance on June 14; and Glass Ceiling Breakers One Acts on June 19 to 21.

Once this crisis passes, we will return to the stage with gleeful enthusiasm. Our actors, designers, directors and producers are all eager to get back to work. Until then, we wash our hands and wish good health for all the members of our community and a quick recovery to anyone who is suffering.

Carla Goldberg
Beacon Artists’ Union Gallery

Our current way of dealing with the temporary closure of our brick-and-mortar gallery is to not give up completely. We did hang our March show, which celebrates each artist’s experimentation and interpretation of the word roots. We hung a much smaller show closer to the windows so that people can enjoy the art if they walk by. We hope the art pieces bring a moment of joy and light in this time of uncertainty. We will continue to do this until we can open again.

In the meantime, we have images of the individual works in the show at baugallery.org and will share on social media. People can contact the gallery via email if they are interested in a piece and want to help support us. When we do re-open, our gallery is spacious and clean and easy to social distance in. Artists are still making art for future shows and we can’t wait to share those works with our audience. For now, we go with the flow.

Katie Schmidt-Feder
Garrison Art Center

Closing the art center to wait for the COVID-19 storm to pass was a difficult decision because we were about to install two solo exhibitions: Caroline Burton (mixed media) and Eric Erickson (paintings). They have been rescheduled to 2021. The spring class session was to have started last Sunday. Not only are we concerned about the financial impact, because the art center derives a large chunk of its operating funds from classes, exhibitions and events, but we also are sad to put on hold the valuable social interaction and multiple benefits of art-making that our students enjoy.

We are encouraging community members to continue to create at home and share their work via #GAC_QuarantineArt. We are looking to social media to stay connected and will be posting virtual content — maybe even some short technique videos provided by our instructors, as well as other virtual tours, and art education resources.

The Riverside Art Auction remains scheduled for Saturday, May 9. We realize there is a strong possibility the auction will need to be postponed or made virtual, but at this point we will forge ahead.

Our galleries are currently empty — back to bare white. This could feel a little sad.

But we will look instead, for the next couple of months, to the wisdom expressed in the final line in the musical based on the life and art of George Seurat, Sunday in the Park with George: “White. A blank page or canvas. His favorite. So many possibilities.”

Davis McCallum
Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival

A prolonged state of emergency would be disastrous not just for the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, but for our entire not-for-profit arts sector. Freelance artists, many of whom are familiar faces at HVSF, have already seen many of their gigs at other theaters evaporate.

Though the present crisis is most harrowing for them, institutions like ours are subject to the same pressures. At HVSF, we are lucky to be in a strong financial position in the short term, and also fortunate that we’re not yet in production, which would mean expenses going out the door with no certainty of our ability to produce a play or gather an audience for it.

The big picture is just as troubling: Our nonprofit business model relies almost equally on ticket sales and contributed revenue, so the dire economic climate affects our delicate finances hugely. When the box office slows to a trickle and the donations freeze, even healthy and vibrant organizations like HVSF are quickly vulnerable.

Where does that leave us? Well, we are hoping our patrons will embrace our flexible exchange policy and buy tickets even in this moment of uncertainty, which would then afford us the cash flow to pay our artists. Should we have to cancel a show due to COVID-19, we’ll hope that some of our patrons will consider a donation or conversion to a gift certificate to be redeemed whenever the world rights itself and we are again able to produce theater, even if that means the following season.

At this point, we’re considering every ticket sold as a gesture of solidarity and support, an instance of our loyal patrons stepping up at a precarious moment to protect the institution they love and the artists who make it so special.

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