All of Colorado shut down on the 15th of March, just as the Red Rocks season was starting to begin, which is a significant source of revenue for our Arts & Venues. The restaurant and bar scene opened up in June with socially distanced outdoor seating, and limited capacity indoor seating. Music venues in Denver have not opened, but certain bars and restaurants have hosted live music in their outdoor space. Recently, Colorado has seen it’s highest numbers in new cases since April, so they have placed a “home by 10” order. At the beginning of the shutdown, Denver quickly converted some of their grant funds to Artist Relief Funding - available to members of Denver’s artistic and creative community who were impacted financially by COVID-19. The city provided $700,000 towards music and performing arts venues in Denver from CARES funding - providing up-to $25,000 per venue. Scroll below to read the full interview from November, 2020 with the Denver Pilot City Leader, Lisa Gedgaudas.
What did the overall situation look like in your city when the pandemic hit?
By March 15th, our city offices closed as well as most all establishments and bars/venues and stay at home order from the Governor. Our Red Rocks calendar season was put on hold and therefor our revenue for Arts & Venues this year was too. We had to quickly readapt our budget and build out projections on 2020.
What is the current situation in your city? What has changed?
The Rocky Mountain West is now getting hit with an increase in cases unlike we have yet seen. It is now the worse it’s been since April. To combat the dramatic increase in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, new restrictions started Sunday, November 8 including a “Home by 10” order through Monday, December 7. Venues have not re-opened in Denver, however some restaurants that have live music were able to open with music and testing out stage plots, protocols, etc. Arts & Venues employees were all furloughed, either part-time or full-time from Oct 4th – Jan 4th due to all of our agencies venues being dormant (Red Rocks, Performing Arts Complex, etc). We are currently working on new budget and seating projections for Red Rocks as we think about the 2021 season options. We will continue to work on re-opening guidelines as we move into 2021 (and be looking closely at Austin’s work).
What did you get out of being a pilot city in the REVS initiative?
Connecting immediately with our Music City leadership was extremely helpful and supportive as we watched the nation shift quickly into safer at home and the fall-out of the economy. Hearing from our coastal cities and counties was crucial for the Midwest to better prepare, advocate and fight for funding opportunities for our artists and venues, immediately. Working later with Austin, Portland and others on CARES funding guidelines, auditing regulations and applications for venues and artists was also critical in pivoting Denver to provide $300,000k to artists and $700,000k to music and performing arts venues that went out just this month (November). By showing both the City and the State how much work was being done and how much money was being pulled from CARES was a huge support to advocating for more.
Were you able to procure funding for the local venues? If so, where did the support come from?
At the beginning of the shutdown, we quickly converted some our grant funds to Artist Relief Funding. This was a brand-new funding program, the IMAGINE 2020 Artist Assistance Fund, available to members of Denver’s artistic and creative community who are impacted financially by COVID-19. Denver Arts & Venues provided $130,000 for artists to recoup financial losses due to cancelled work, at $1,000 grants each. We had over 400 applications within 48 hours. Additionally, we provided $700,000 towards music and performing arts venues in Denver from CARES funding. We will be providing up-to $25,000 per venue.
I’m currently working for NIVA and co-running their Emergency Relief Fund program with Chris Zacher (Levitt Pavilion) and Carl Swanson (Springboard for the Arts). We continue to raise funding and have been reviewing over 640 applications from venues and promoters across the nation. We also continue to advocate for the Save Our Stages Act that NIVA lobbied for and got to congress. If it passes, in 2021, we will help to get Cities and States access to these funds.
Cover Photo Credit: Photo by Owen Lystrup