Dear Senator Merkley,
As Oregon constituents living in Eugene and Springfield, and members of the Eugene Opera Board of Directors, we want to call your attention to the needs of the arts and cultural community as you and others in Congress craft the stimulus package needed to cushion our economy as it copes with restrictions aimed at "flattening the curve" of the coronavirus pandemic.
Eugene Opera, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, must balance expenditures with income as does any small business. The cancellation of last weekend’s performances in accordance with the state-wide ban on gatherings over 250 persons (at that time) will seriously deplete our healthy bank balance, built up over three years of careful management. We must still pay our bills without the benefit of any income from ticket sales. Replenishing this reserve quickly will be key to the company’s ability to continue to operate into the coming season. Despite our best efforts, this cannot be a foregone conclusion as many other arts and cultural organizations in the community find themselves in a similar situation.
A healthy Eugene Opera benefits not only its employees and the performing artists whose livelihoods depend on it. It is also essential to the well-being of many independent contractors and other small businesses in the community—costume designers, graphic artists, and printers among them—that are integral to bringing live opera to the stage.
To see our company, and so many other arts and cultural ventures, through the process of rebuilding quickly to financial health, help from the government could be critical. The attached study from the National Endowment for the Arts lays out the importance of the arts and cultural community to the national gross domestic product. It finds that this sector of the economy accounted for 4.7 percent of our GDP in 2017, or $877.8 billion.
Please do not forget the arts and cultural sector of our economy when crafting the stimulus bill to address the economic fall-out from the COVID-19 pandemic. Eugene Opera, a small business that contributes directly to the vibrancy of this sector, needs a financial boost to help it over the hump of adversity created by the negative impact of the economic shutdown in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
“NEA Report: During Economic Highs and Lows, the Arts are Key Segment of U.S. Economy” (March 17, 2020). https://www.arts.gov/news/2020/during-economic-highs-and-lows-arts-are-key-segment-us-economy.
The Board of Directors
Inge Tarantola, President
Joyce Leader, Secretary
Mary Meacham, Treasurer
Barbara Wheatley, Vice President