Closings are ‘devastating’ to CT’s arts organizations

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By BRUNO MATARAZZO JR., REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

TORRINGTON — The weekend in downtown Torrington is when the parking spots and streets fill up with cars as patrons make their way to shows at the Warner Theatre, Five Points Gallery or a visit to the restaurant.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed that. Businesses are taking a hit by the forced closures and the arts economy is no different.

Art galleries are closed and performances at bars, galleries and the Warner Theatre have been canceled because of limits on the number of people gathering at events.

The impact has been the loss of income for performers and for the institutions themselves that rely on ticket sales for operating costs.

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The Warner Theatre had to furlough staff in the wake of the number of cancellations, according to Lynn Gelormino, its executive director.

“Anything like this is devastating to any arts organizations,” Gerlomino said. “Since by law we can’t have more than 50 people gathering, our programming has been canceled.”

The Warner is trying to rebook tours that had to cancel and they have rescheduled some of the shows.

Frank Tavera, chief executive officer of the Palace Theater in Waterbury, said their organization has not yet had to furlough staff.

“Even with our own productions, we can’t move forward because we don’t know when (the limit) will be lifted,” Gelormino said.

The cancellations have hurt independent artists who do work for venues like the Warner.

Keith Paul has seen his jobs vanish in the past month.

“I lost a lot of money. It’s hard to think about taking care of yourself in the current climate let alone trying to get out of this,” Paul said. “But I’ve been trying to take a day at a time. Breathe a little.”

Steph Burr, executive director of the Northwest Connecticut Arts Council, said all events have been canceled because of the governor’s order but the impact will be hard to determine at this point.

“We’re trying to be proactive at the arts council and trying to collect as much data as possible as the situation unfolds because it’s going to helpful. The more data we have, the more of a leg we will have to stand on when it comes to advocate for relief funding.”

There’s no relief funding planned for the arts now but Burr wants to be ready in case it becomes available.

The Northwest Connecticut Arts Council has been pushing area artists and arts organizations to complete a survey on the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on their respective.

The council is working in collaboration with the state Office of the Arts and Americans for the Arts to collect data on the economic impact of the COVID-19 virus on arts and cultural organizations. The data will help the Arts Council advocate for stimulus funding.

“We commend all the organizations that have made the responsible decision to cancel events to help mitigate the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus,” Burr said. “We encourage all organizations in the creative sector to take this survey now. It is critical to document the impact of the virus as the situation unfolds.”

Contact Bruno Matarazzo Jr. at bmatarazzo@rep-am.com or on Twitter @RA_BrunoJr.