Red light will flood the outside of Red Deer’s Memorial Centre on Tuesday as part of a nationwide campaign drawing public attention to the plight of the performing arts industry during the pandemic. (Contributed photo).

Red Deer’s Memorial Centre to shine a red light on its plight during COVID-19

The performing arts industry is suffering financial devastation

Red Deer’s Memorial Centre will be flooded by red light on Tuesday as part of a nationwide movement to draw attention to the impact of the pandemic on the arts community.

COVID-19 has dealt a devastating blow to Central Alberta Theatre, which operates the Memorial Centre. It has lost 99 per cent of its revenue and had to layoff three-quarters of its staff at the start of the lockdown in March.

While one of the three laid-off people has since returned to work, Darrel Dixon, operations manager for the Memorial Centre, said much uncertainty remains around the upcoming theatre season and whether the stage can be rented to other groups.

“We do not want to irresponsibly open our doors and fill our seats immediately,” said Dixon.

“We do, however, want to raise awareness of our industry, since it has not received as much coverage as …. sports, restaurants, hair salons, etc.”

He added that large venues were among the first to close and will be among the last to open.

“With current restrictions of 100 people in a live venue, it is not economically feasible for groups to tour, dance studios to have recitals, schools to have their plays, comedians to entertain.”

The performing arts community wants various levels of government “to continue or implement” relief funding in recognition of the contributions made by the performing arts industry towards fuelling local economies through its support of hotels, restaurants, caterers, taxi companies, sound, lighting and videography companies.

Dixon said the Memorial Centre does not qualify for some federal grants because the building is technically owned by the City of Red Deer.

But Central Alberta Theatre, which operates the venue, has received no municipal relief funding to help cover monthly expenses.

Bo’s Grill and Stage is another Red Deer venue that plans to be lit up in red on Tuesday.

Since “there is no set date for return,” the industry wants continued government support for live event workers and for the many companies that support and supply the performing arts industry.

According to Statistics Canada, the arts, entertainment and recreation sector lost 152,000 of 486,100 jobs between June 2019 and June 2020.

Eighty-six per cent of businesses in the sector experienced a high level of impact due to the pandemic, and those who are still employed have seen a 45 per cent reduction in hours worked.

According to a 2017 Oxford Economics study, the corporate and business events sector generates $92 billion in this country and directly employs 229,000 Canadians.

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