NV Producers to LEAP team: "There is no COVID recovery without the local, independent arts industry"

For more information about joining the alliance or other inquiries, visit palsnv.org.



Several independent performing arts organizations in the Las Vegas valley have come together to form the Producers Alliance of Southern Nevada (PALSNV) in a move that is not only long overdue but essential to our region's economic recovery in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic.


After years of deliberation between local theatre makers about organizing a coalition, Kate St-Pierre of The Lab LV reached out to colleagues Troy Heard of Majestic Repertory, Daz Weller of Vegas Theatre Company, Mikey Bilbray Philips of Poor Richard's Players, and Sarah O'Connell from The Asylum Theatre and Eat More Art Vegas to consider the idea. In a matter of 24 hours, producers from an additional dozen companies signed on.


The organization seeks to facilitate cooperation between both commercial and nonprofit stakeholders in the arts, culture, and entertainment industry. Their first collective action was a letter seeking a direct line of communication with the LEAP officials appointed by Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak to manage the state's COVID recovery "Nevada United" plan.


The letter:

August 7, 2020


From: Producers Alliance of Southern Nevada


To: Nevada Local Empowerment Advisory Panel (LEAP)


Re: Independent performing arts orgs ABSENT from LEAP and Nevada United plans


Dear LEAP Panel :


On January 31, 2020, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) declared COVID-19 a public health emergency of international concern and our local, independent production arts industry was the first to take a hit as the corporate event cancellations rolled in due to public health concerns. The total loss of business for the Nevada nonprofit arts and culture sector soon followed with Governor Sisolak’s “Declaration of Emergency” on March 12th, 2020 and mandated social distancing closures.


The recent record-setting 32% drop in GDP comes as no surprise to members of the arts and culture sector. We understand that prior to the pandemic America’s nonprofit Arts industry generated $166.3 billion in activity every year, employed 5.1 million people, and provided $877 billion (4.5 % of GDP) to the U.S. economy, adding more value than transportation, agriculture, or tourism. Performing Arts organizations and independent artists added a combined total of $52.2 billion to the U.S. economy in 2017. In Nevada, this resulted in over 40,900 jobs, $8.7 billion, or 5.5 percent of Nevada's GDP.


According to the “Nevada Creative Industries Report” there were 4,942 arts-related businesses operating in our state in 2017. The Nevada Arts Council, Nevada Humanities, and around 83 individual organizations received a combined total of $1,210,873 of investment from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) CARES funds. Most of these awards were less than $5K. An additional undisclosed amount was awarded by WESTAF to 3 Nevada companies, though none were allowed more than $20K as per their guidelines. Clearly, the federal allocations to Nevada fall short of the billions in arts sector payroll, goods and services, and rent checks now lost due to mandated closures and travel restrictions.


The temporary lifelines offered through SBA grants and loans as well as programs established by Clark County are also insufficient to protect our sector and empower our community’s recovery. Our nonprofit organizations are wrongly excluded from workforce development opportunities reserved solely for commercial businesses (or those without independent contractors) despite our contribution to the overall GDP of our state (see the county Stabilization Grant). Here in Southern Nevada, the City of Las Vegas offers scant resources to its hundreds of independent, local arts organizations and arts-adjacent businesses but many are considered to be a “city problem” due to their location and are disqualified from county initiatives (see the county Retrofit Grant). Our local performing arts groups are prohibited from combining their nominal CARES awards from the NEA and NEH with partial relief from COVID rent programs and forgivable PPP or EIDL loans (see the county Rental Assistance grant).


Loss of revenue is not the only resource that has evaporated from the local arts and culture sector. Many of our nonprofits rely on community partnerships to offer venues for their programming. With restrictions now in place at CCSD and UNLV, there are few affordable options for rehearsal, performance, and meeting space.


In addition to a funding blind spot, our sector is overlooked when it comes to pandemic public health policy. Small venue operators are inappropriately subject to the regulations intended for casino showrooms and large concert arenas, if included at all. This leaves the task of establishing best practices up to us as individual producers. Smaller venues have the best chance of reopening immediately when deemed safe to do so, but we must have specific attention from the LEAP committee to ensure the health of our workers and establish public confidence in the safety of our experiences. As of this moment, smaller, independent arts organizations have not been included in any collaborative conversations with LEAP about the COVID crisis.


It is ironic that the true plight of nonprofits and businesses focused on taking the stage has gone unnoticed by leaders at the state and local level, but under the shadow of the Strip and far from Carson City, this is precisely the case in Southern Nevada. Our local small venues, performing arts organizations, and independent arts industry can no longer withstand the neglect.


Venues may be closed well into 2021 due to safety concerns posed by large gatherings, permanently impacting our entire community’s cultural ecosystem – artists, stagehands, chefs, administrators, educators, production managers, radio/social media/tv/print advertising, event companies, and many others. The common “survival jobs” for Arts workers in the hospitality and service sectors have also been decimated by this crisis and the competition for them will remain an ongoing challenge.


The voters and taxpayers who depend on the arts and event industry for income relied on the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program to pay their bills during these unprecedented times. Arts workers now face instant financial devastation, including eviction due to its expiration which disproportionately impacts communities of color. If our artists lose their homes and hope of a career, we lose their talent and engagement. It is imperative to the social fabric of Southern Nevada and our ability to attract investment that we avoid a “Brain Drain” similar to the aftermath of last decade’s “Great Recession.”


In Southern Nevada, there is no recovery without a specific strategy for our local arts economy. Our diverse population relies on the economic mobility, social cohesion, and opportunity that the independent arts and culture sector provides. Work with us now on a strategy to protect the local arts and culture community and you will empower the most impactful force multiplier we have in Nevada’s economy.


We look forward to speaking with a member of the LEAP panel or your staff as soon as possible to address the needs of your cultural constituency.


Sincerely,

The Producers Alliance of Southern Nevada

For more information about joining the alliance or other inquiries, visit palsnv.org.

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