Comment: We need the arts more than ever

Most local businesses and arts organizations are suffering these days, and many could close permanently as a result of the COVID-19 lockdowns. They are run by your friends and neighbours, and their loss would change Greater Victoria.

We have asked local businesses and arts groups to describe what they are facing. Remember: For every story told in these pages, there are a thousand more.

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A commentary by the CEO of Pacific Opera Victoria.

In recent weeks, we have been waking up to how much we depend on the arts. When we finally emerge from this crisis, we will need them more than ever.

The arts bring us hope and comfort. They inspire a sense of community. They recalibrate our priorities and remind us of what is meaningful and beautiful about life and being human.

Art has become the collective way we thank our front-line workers. Whether we are displaying hearts in windows or singing from balconies in appreciation of first responders, it is through art that we choose to pay tribute to health-care and service workers across the country and around the globe.

And it is through art that we are finding our own way through these difficult days — streaming videos, listening to music, reading, drawing with our children or dancing at a social distance.

As the economic impact of this pandemic intensifies, the livelihoods of artists have been dealt a severe blow. Their gigs are postponed indeterminately due to the suspension of performances and exhibits.

Cultural organizations grapple with lost ticket sales and admission fees, and are wary of the effect a volatile global financial market might have on the contributions that sustain the non-profit arts sector.

At Pacific Opera, we are readying ourselves to weather a storm that could be protracted and uncertain. We are committed to ensuring our artists are compensated for loss of work and preserving the human resources and financial capital needed to host the community when it is safe again to convene at our studios and theatres.

For the time being, Pacific Opera has pivoted its cultural offerings online with podcasts and listening parties. As a contribution to online curriculum, we will soon broadcast our youth opera The Flight of the Hummingbird for families and educators throughout the province.

An environmental fable about moral courage, the story encourages doing what we can for our planet — a fitting call to action for these turbulent times. We welcome you to enjoy Opera Etc. at our website, pacificopera.ca, as we stay physically distant, but socially connected.

We wish to thank the public who were able to donate their opera tickets rather than accepting refunds, and we extend our gratitude to the donors and funders who are stepping up in new and meaningful ways.

We deeply appreciate the community’s support for the arts during this time of unprecedented uncertainty. Your collective generosity will help to mitigate the grave effects of this extraordinary situation and restore the long-term health of Canadian culture.

We recognize there are many charitable causes that need our collective support during this crisis, and we celebrate the generosity we are seeing in this community.

We also ask everyone to do what they can to include arts and culture in their plans, now and in the future. Buy a subscription, donate, make a pledge, volunteer your expertise. Most importantly, invest the time to experience the work of local and Canadian artists.

We are grateful to those who are working to keep us safe, to the children at home doing what they can, and to everyone doing their part to beat this thing. And we are deeply, deeply grateful to the artists who are helping us all to get through this.

We will need the arts more than ever when we emerge from this crisis and rediscover the power of live song and story and the importance of coming together as a community.

When that time comes and we can once again share those extraordinary moments of live music, drama and meaning, the arts will be there. We will celebrate together.

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