The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a significant toll on all of our nation’s cities, causing major budget shortfalls that have forced mayors to cut programs and services and furlough employees. While virtually all city services and programs have been impacted by this budget crisis, initiatives supporting the arts, promoting tourism, and providing entertainment have been hit especially hard.
Tuesday, at the United States Conference of Mayors 88th Annual Meeting, the Committee on Tourism, Arts, Parks Entertainment and Sports (TAPES) – led my Reno, NV Mayor Hillary Schieve –approved a package of resolutions aimed at addressing these challenges and restoring cultural and entertainment programming in cities across the country.
During its virtual session, The TAPES Committee advanced two resolutions designed to help cultural institutions rebound from the COVID-19 crisis. Both resolutions urge Congress and the Administration to take action to ensure that the art, entertainment and cultural programs that have been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic have the resources they need to continue to serve the people living in America’s cities.
Both resolutions in support of COVID-19 relief recognize the profound impact that this pandemic has had on artists and arts and cultural organizations. While facing significant hardships, these important institutions have adapted, providing communities with access to art, music and distance learning opportunities that have helped address the challenges of social isolation and combat the mental health issues that have arisen from the COVID-19 pandemic. During these difficult times, it’s more important than ever that we support arts and cultural institutions which connect our residents to each other, build social cohesion and belonging and reinstate our shared sense of hope.
The TAPES Committee also approved a resolution declaring October to be National Arts and Humanities Month, a resolution urging the platform committees of both major parties to adopt efforts to support the arts in their party platforms and a resolution recognizing the importance of local art agencies during a crisis.
Finally, members of the TAPES Committee also tackled the issue of how to safely reopen professional sports which have been almost entirely shutdown since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. American cities are home to 149 teams that comprise the five major American professional sports leagues. Professional sports are an important part of our cities’ cultural and social identities and a major economic driver with the live sports and entertainment event industry directly employing more than 500,000 people. They’re more than just entertainment – sports are a source of community pride and help bring people together.
Safely reopening our professional sports industry presents unique challenges, but also offers an important opportunity to revive an institution that means so much to so many. The TAPES Committee approved the resolution supporting the safe reopening of professional sports sponsored by Mayor Buddy Dyer of Orlando, FL and Mayor Rick Kriseman of St. Petersburg, FL.
Each of these approved resolutions will now advance to be voted on by the Executive Committee of the Conference and those that pass will become policy for the next year.
The importance of the Arts During COVID-19
Following a voice vote on the package of resolutions, Geralda Miller, the Executive Director of Art Spot Reno, discussed the importance of the arts during the COVID-19 crisis. She noted that during these turbulent times, people have continued to engage with all forms of creative art – including TikTok – to express themselves and bond with their networks during a time of social distancing. She also noted that the arts are a major factor in driving economic activity and tourism, and will help aid cities’ economic recovery.
Geralda Miller also discussed the recent protests surrounding acts of police violence and the need to address systemic racism in communities throughout the country. She highlighted how all forms of art can help awaken people to these hard realities, help people cope with and understand them and serve as catalysts for social change. Going forward, Geralda Miller encouraged mayors to continue supporting the arts and investing in local artists who help us understand and reflect upon the communities in which we live.