Community Focus Report

Arts & Culture

Springfield's Arts, Music Communities Hard Hit by Pandemic

A lack of in-person events during the 2020-21 pandemic has had a devastating impact on local arts and culture organizations, as theaters stayed empty, arts festivals were canceled and galleries closed, according to the Community Focus Report’s white paper on arts and culture (pdf) released on Monday, Sept. 20.

This year, the Community Focus Report—the biennial report card of strengths and challenges in Springfield and Greene County—is releasing detailed white papers focused on the 11 key areas ahead of the printed report, which will be released on Oct. 21.

The arts and culture white paper (pdf) noted many organizations had to cancel fundraising events and galas because of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to severe financial pressure. The prolonged shutdown resulted in a Red Flag for arts and culture in Springfield and Greene County.

But as more people become vaccinated, restrictions have been easing, and events have restarted.

With the pandemic, occupancy restrictions limited indoor spaces. Theaters and galleries were restricted to 50% capacity and required physical distancing. Each organization made the necessary adjustments, but distanced seating reduced actual capacity to 25-30%, not 50%,according to the 2021 Community Focus Report.

At Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts, capacity went from 2,200 to 550. At the Landers Theatre, capacity went from 531 to 149. The Springfield Symphony even had to reduce the number of musicians on stage from 71 to 38 to ensure proper distancing.

These cuts led to revenue losses. For example, the Historic Gillioz Theatre — a staple for downtown Springfield — lost 91% of its revenue from 2019 to 2020.

Fortunately, most arts and culture organizations in Springfield received support from federal relief funding including the Payroll Protection Program and emergency relief loans to weather the pandemic. Artsfest — after being canceled in 2020 — started back up with socially distanced, masked crowds in May 2021, and many venues have been able to increase their available seating in recent weeks as restrictions eased with the availability of vaccines.

The complete list of Blue Ribbons and Red Flags for arts and culture can be found in the white paper (pdf).

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