Adam Krauthamer, president of Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, has published a gloomy prognosis in the New York Daily News:
“We must prevent a great cultural depression” by Adam Krauthamer
Published in the New York Daily News here on Oct 25, 2020
The pandemic has created new challenges in all of our lives, including the lives of performing artists. But unlike other workers — many of whom are slowly and methodically returning to their jobs — musicians and fellow arts workers in New York City are still locked out of the economy. These are the performers, artists and craftspeople who work on Broadway, at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the Apollo Theatre, Dizzy’s, Radio City and in your favorite clubs. They are being left behind in our national response to COVID, and we can’t afford to ignore them any longer. We must acknowledge an unspoken fact: Those who work in the performing arts are truly essential workers, and without them, we risk a great cultural depression….
According to the mayor’s office, New York is home to one of the world’s largest and most influential music ecosystems, supporting nearly 60,000 jobs, accounting for roughly $5 billion in wages, and generating a total economic output of $21 billion. On the larger scale, the arts contribute $763.6 billion to the U.S. economy, which is 4.2% of the gross domestic product — more than agriculture, transportation or warehousing. And the arts employ 4.9 million workers across the country. This is not some indulgent industry; it is part of the very foundation of our city and our country.
But everything has changed for the arts now. Seven months into the pandemic, artists and the city of New York are being throttled, almost without exception. From the house band at the Village Vanguard to the Queens Symphony to Broadway and Lincoln Center, the arts have been silenced. Virtually every person working in the arts and entertainment sector has lost their job.
Yet there is hardly any discussion of this in New York — and no plan in sight. …
In the present moment, look at countries like Canada, France, Britain, Germany, Australia, South Africa and South Korea. Specifically, in the U.K., workers who cannot do their jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic have up to 80% of their wages covered by the government. On top of that, the U.K.’s public funding body for the arts announced a $190 million emergency relief package for artists and arts organizations affected by the ongoing public health situation, specifically earmarking $23 million in emergency relief to freelancers in creative industries who were not sufficiently covered by the government’s existing bailout package. The U.K. and other countries are making sure that their cultural institutions and artists will survive the pandemic. They know that culture is a cornerstone of their societies and well worth the investment.
But here in New York and across the United States, we still lack the leadership….
Society has a duty to prevent a great cultural depression, and we have the ability to do so. We must make the choice to fight for the arts and send direct aid to performing artists so that this crisis doesn’t force them to find another career, quit the local symphony, not return to their Broadway show or stop giving lessons to your kids. If artists can’t survive, then culture can’t survive.
We simply must recognize that culture is the heart of society — and the time to save it is now.
Adam Krauthammer (r.)