MANSFIELD -- Strip clubs in the United States generated an estimated $8.1 billion in revenue in 2019, employing less than 60,000 people.
Comparatively - in Ohio alone last year - the arts and culture industry generated an estimated economic impact of over $41 billion and employed 289,300 people.
Strip clubs have been re-opened for months now. The arts remain shuttered and overlooked in Ohio’s Responsible Restart plan, ignored in every communication with no acknowledgement for the many letters that have been sent to elected leaders as we plead for help or even an indication of when we can re-open.
The message that is being sent is stark:
● Ohio’s administration values strip clubs over arts and culture;
● Arcade games over performances that teach Common Core subjects to students already at a disadvantage;
● Casinos over artists and the people who make their living working in the arts.
When help has been needed most, the performing arts organizations of Ohio have instead been met with a blind eye as they inch towards permanent closure.
While movie theatres have been able to re-open with no specifics on maximum capacity in their spaces, here we are with a 55,000 square-foot historic theatre that can allow no one to enter its doors for a show, movies or otherwise. While middle school students can mingle sweat and breath on a football field, we can’t allow patrons to sit outside our building to watch a performance, even while they wear masks and sit six-feet apart in designated spaces.
While bar-goers enjoy a performance from a band while standing shoulder to shoulder, unmasked, our artists can’t make a living because we can’t allow them to gather in groups of more than nine.
We’re not asking for something revolutionary here -- we’re merely requesting some clear guidance from the state.
As it stands, we aren’t able to allow patrons out of their cars to watch a performance but RiversEdge in Hamilton, two hours south of us, is performing concerts for roughly 1,000 people.
Shelby, Ashland, and Bucyrus are all having public concerts, but the state’s current stance on even outdoor performances is so murky that we are currently excluded.
The Ren’s impact on the local economy isn’t nominal: we employ 12 full-time and 8 part-time staff, in addition to a talented artist workforce of over 150.
Do we really deserve less consideration than a bowling alley?
To be perfectly clear, I’m not taking a stance on any of the “re-opened” activities that are referenced in this letter.
Quite frankly, we can plan for closure. We can plan for re-opening.
What we cannot accommodate is the continued confusion on what is and is not allowed to happen across the state, the obstinate refusal to acknowledge the presence and impact of our industry on Ohio’s economy, and the egregious double standard to which the arts are being subjected under the Responsible Restart plan.
Restarting the economy is a priority. The performing arts engine can pump money into the system and get people back to work. Protecting our citizens is a priority: we can do that - safer than your average grocery trip, and definitely safer than a visit to a bar or strip club.
Educating children is a priority: yes, we can even help with that, and we’ll do it in a way that helps parents and teachers, too.
We’ve been through terrible times, and we want to do our part to keep Ohio safe. We truly believe that we are in this together.
But we aren’t allowed to participate, and that oversight is failing the Ohio arts & culture industry.
We have plans to re-open safely, socially-distanced, masked, and with limited capacity. Throw us a lifeline, and let us contribute.