New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Tuesday unveiled an extensive program of pop-up performances across the state starting next month with 150 artists from Amy Schumer, Chris Rock, Renée Fleming, Wynton Marsalis and Hugh Jackman to orchestras, ballets and theater companies.
Cuomo called it a New York Arts Revival Program to help a state devastated by Covid-19 to recall its “unique cultural assets” in and beyond New York City — from the Ballet Hispanico, Ars Nova, Albany Symphony Orchestra and National Black Theatre to the Pendragon Theatre in Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks. Many are supported by New York State Council on the Arts, which helps fund over 2,000 arts organizations across the state.
“Broadway, museums, film, comedy, dance, and music — are fundamental to both the economy and the spirit of New York,” said Cuomo in his 11th State of the State, a multi-part address devoted largely to talk of jumpstarting New York’s economic resurgence. “What is a city without social, cultural and creative synergies? New York City is not New York without Broadway.”
The program will explore how performances could be held safely without fixed seating and with social distancing in flexible venues. It’s not clear what they will look like. New York City organized a series of pop-up performances over the spring and summer that couldn’t be publicized for fear of attracting too big a crowd.
Before the the pandemic, the $120 billion arts and cultural sector accounted for nearly 8% of the state’s economy and half a million jobs., he said. In less than a year, tens of thousands of those jobs were lost, along with over two million jobs in the creative arts nationally.
He said the state will also partner with The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to launch a Creatives Rebuild initiative. Developed in partnership with the Reimagine New York Commission, the initiative “will put back to work 1,000 artists who have been impacted by the crisis and will invest in dozens of small arts organizations that make our towns and cities so dynamic. Arts have a multiplying effect on the economy. Creatives Rebuild will provide New York artists support so they can help build more vibrant communities across New York.”
New York was the epicenter of the global pandemic last spring but its Covid positivity rate is currently among the lowest in the nation. The state has a hefty $15 billion deficit largely due to Covid, and much of which Cuomo blames on President Trump’s late and botched coronavirus response. He’s hoping a new Congress under Joe Biden will approve the aid to states and cities that the last Congress would not.
“Do you remember last spring? Do you remember what New Yorkers did in their darkest hour? I will never forget it. When COVID ambushed New York and we went from one case to hundreds of cases in a matter of days. When sirens filled the night, stillness and mass graves were dug on Hart Island. When fear gripped New Yorkers like a vise. When global experts told us there was no way we could slow the spread. But New Yorkers said yes we could and yes we would. New Yorkers united and rose to the occasion. That is New York at her best – that is the New York miracle.”
“This next year we will see economies realign and reset around the world and New York will lead the way,” he added.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said over the weekend that live venues will likely reopen some time in the fall of 2021. Speaking at virtual conference held by the Association of Performing Arts Professionals, the nation’s top infectious disease expert said “you can have people feeling safe performing onstage as well as people in the audience” by early to mid fall.
His comments were consistent with statements he made last month, when he told NBC that a vaccine rollout could allow Broadway to reopen its stages by late summer or early fall.
Cuomo does not want to wait that long for live performances.
He noted that the state had experimented with letting up to 6,772 fans attend a Buffalo Bills playoff game at the 72,000-seat Bills Stadium in Orchard Park, NY. “We just tested the concept with the Buffalo Bills playoffs game ,and early indication is it was an early success.” He;s given the OK for another game.
If the state waits to reopen until the virus is completely defeated, “There will be nothing left to open,” he said.
Cuomo may be the highest profile Covid governor, whose frequent, outspoken, press briefings earned him a special Emmy nod.