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Data Shows How COVID-19 Has Impacted Oklahoma's Creative Sector

Lyric Theatre
Lyric Theatre in Oklahoma City's Plaza District had to let go of 65% of their full time staff due to COVID-19, according to the Oklahoma Arts Council.

America's arts, culture and creative economy was one of the first sectors to be hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and now data released by the Brookings Institution have numbers to show by how much. 

The data shows that between April 1st and July 31st  there was an estimated loss of 2.7 million jobs and more than $150 billion loss in sales of goods and services for creative industries nationwide. Those numbers represent nearly a third of all jobs in those industries and 9% of annual sales. 

Oklahoma alone saw more than 19,000 jobs lost as a result of the pandemic within the four months analyzed. The state also saw a loss of $606 million dollars in sales of creative industry goods and services. 

Oklahoma Arts Council's Executive Director Amber Sharples said the data backs what they've been hearing from the arts community. 

"This is just having a catastrophic effect, and what we are concerned about are the long-term ramifications of the pandemic on the arts sector," Sharples said. 

Mirroring the nation - Oklahoma's fine and performing arts have been hit the hardest. Their losses represent up to 50% of job losses in some cases and 27% of lost sales. 

In Oklahoma City's Plaza District, Sharples said Lyric Theatre had to let go of 65% of their full time staff. 

The long-term effects of the losses that she's concerned about will, in some cases, take years to repair. 

She also has concerns for the organizations that have been providing COVID-19 assistance when they themselves are running on limited resources. 

"It is not sustainable, nor is it fair, to ask them to do more services and accrue more costs," Sharples said.

The City of Oklahoma City recently provided a a $2 million program to help live performance venues. Live performance venues were able to apply for up to $250,000 for lost revenue, payroll and more through the city's Small Business Continuity Program.

Tulsa is currently providing $150,000 for music venues and festivals in Tulsa County through a program called Play Tulsa Music. Applicants have to meet Tulsa Health Department's reopening guidelines, provide capacity between 20 and 1,000, and secure 50% of fees for musicians.

Cathy O'Connor is the president and CEO of the Alliance for Economic Devolopment in Oklahoma City. In a press release she said the live entertainment and performing arts are important assets to the community.

"This assistance will help perserve our access to cultural events, live entertainment and performing arts," O'Connor said. "These businesses have seen dramatic revenue decreases over the past five months."

Sharples said the Brookings Institution data should help jumpstart conversations with state leaders on how dire the situtaion is for Oklahoma's arts - in hopes of finding a way to provide much needed relief. 

Kateleigh Mills is the Special Projects reporter for KOSU.
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