OGDEN — Several Ogden arts venues turned red Tuesday night, part of a nationwide campaign to raise awareness about the big role theater, music and other cultural activities have in a community.
As with many things, the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the live events industry, as it’s known, halting theatrical productions, musical performances, street events and more. That’s made life more quiet and boring for consumers of such activities, perhaps. But maybe more significantly, it’s hampered the ability of artists, actors, musicians and others to make a living.
“I think that gets lost in the mix,” said Christy McBride, manager of the City of Ogden’s Arts, Culture and Events Division, alluding to the economic impact of arts and artistic endeavors. “There are so many artists out of work, and events create their own economic viability.”
With that and the import of art to a community’s vibrance in mind, boosters of the Red Light Alert Restart campaign, or #RedAlertRESTART, illuminated Ogden Eccles Conference Center, the Ogden Amphitheater and Peery’s Egyptian Theater in red light Tuesday night. Also doused in scarlet were the Val A. Browning Center for the Performing Arts on the Weber State University campus and the Golden Spike Event Center.
In Salt Lake City, the Utah State Capitol and Salt Palace were also to be illuminated in red, according to organizers, along with 1,500 other venues around the country. “We need industry workers, venues, fans and artists to all unite for the cause of saving the places we love,” reads an online blurb from the national organizers of the event.
The red lighting here lasted from 9 p.m. to midnight. But more broadly, national organizers also seek support for Senate Bill 3814, the Restart Act, meant to help small businesses. They’re also pushing for continuation and expansion of federal unemployment initiatives launched in response to the pandemic.
“Unable to practice their craft, the artists, designers, technicians and support personnel that work on these live events are out of work. We don’t know when this will change and they will again be able to support their families,” Jim Craig, director of the Brown Center, said in a statement, also urging support for the Restart Act.
Though Farmers Market Ogden has continued this summer in diminished form and Ogden Musical Theatre held a musical production last month, many cultural events and arts productions have screeched to a halt. Ogden’s Harvest Moon Celebration and Witchstock have been cancelled for 2020 as well as Ogden Pioneer Days and the Ogden Twilight Series, among many other offerings.
The impact is significant, McBride said, noting that the Twilight Series by itself has a $2.2 million economic spinoff effect in the city. “People crave being together, and it is a big multi-million dollar industry,” she said.
Beyond the economic impact, Kim Bowsher, executive director of the Ogden Downtown Alliance, noted the impact cultural events can have in uniting and inspiring a community.
“We recognize an immediate economic loss to our local brick-and-mortar businesses, so often held together by the foot traffic events can provide, and we recognize an even larger, unaccounted loss in the sense of connection and community engagement and care,” she said. “While we understand the health concerns and are being as responsible as possible in this time, we have deep concerns over the artistry and the magic we are losing as people turn away from these endeavors. Events and the talent, producers, entertainers and staff at large that make them happen need support.”