Our local arts scene is in trouble and needs your support.

Don’t brush this off. If we don’t respond fast enough, if we put it off by thinking our arts, crafts and entertainment venues will bounce back all by themselves, that would be regrettable. Arts, which play such a huge role in our community, could be gone for good.

As reported in Friday’s Echo Press, the Andria Theatre is looking at a loss of more than $163,000 because the pandemic canceled its productions and scrubbed its biggest fundraiser, Art in the Park. David Christman, Andria Theatre’s artistic director, put it this way: “This is a very bleak time for the Andria. We are not confident that she will survive. And that is the honest truth.”

As of last week, the Andria Theatre didn’t even know when it would be able to fully reopen. “If the fall and holiday productions need to be canceled, that will mean further big hits to the theater’s income,” noted the theater’s executive director Ann Hermes. “The theater enjoyed its three past seasons that positioned the theater in a very positive financial light. But COVID-19 knocked it out in one fell swoop.”

And it’s not just the Andria Theatre that’s struggling through the pandemic. It’s all the other arts organizations in the community too – Theatre L’Homme Dieu, Central Lakes Symphony Orchestra, Central Lakes Concert Association and others. They’re not only reeling from cancelled events, they also face a big cut in funding from the Legacy Amendment, which is funded through sales taxes, which have plummeted because of the economic slowdown from the coronavirus. Individual artists are also impacted. They haven’t been able to sell their wares at community festivals, Art in the Park and other events.

Even if you’re not a big fan of the arts, you can’t ignore their impact. They help bring visitors to our area, who in turn shop at our stores, fill up at our gas stations, dine in our restaurants, and stay at our hotels. The ripple effect is real. One estimate a few years ago credited the local arts scene with pumping in about $3 million into the local economy.

Arts organizations are thinking of creative ways of raising money. The Andria Theatre, for instance, is selling space for people to put Happy Birthday greetings on its marquee or maybe even a marriage proposal.

Plays, productions, concerts and events don’t just magically happen year after year. They take an enormous amount of planning, practicing and dollars to pull off. The cost to produce one show at the Andria can amount to $15,000 or more.

We’re fortunate that Douglas County has a strong base of arts supporters. A few of them reacted with shock and sadness to our story about the Andria Theatre’s struggles. Some of the posts on our Facebook page:

  • “We need a GoFundMe for it. This theatre is so important and these actors work so hard, I have tasted just a fraction of it and WOW!”

  • “Time to rally for an important part of Alexandria! We're dropping off our check tomorrow. If you can afford it, please help the Andria! The Andria is a vital part of our town.”

  • “This makes me really sad.”

  • “We can't lose it!”

  • “The performances are magical. Watching my 6-year-old’s eyes during the Frozen play I would buy tickets for all the kids’ plays.”

  • We hope comments like these are circulating throughout Douglas County. The base of arts supporters in the community shouldn’t have to tackle this all on their own. Others have to raise their hands and say, “I will help the arts.”

Go to the websites of the arts organizations and donate to them directly. Buy a raffle ticket to help the Andria Theatre – they’re $10 and available at Elden’s Fresh Foods. Support local artists by buying their wares.

Keep the arts alive.