SLO arts organizations adjust to closures and uncertainty during COVID-19 pandemic

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San Luis Obispo's art scene is reeling from event cancellations, postponements, and closures due to the state's directives aimed at tackling the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The San Luis Obispo Repertory Theatre (SLO Rep), Performing Arts Center of San Luis Obispo (PACSLO), and Clark Center in Arroyo Grande have all called off shows amid coronavirus concerns, while the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art (SLOMA) has closed its doors temporarily.
ON HOLD Arts organizations such as SLOMA are on hold for now and uncertain about the future, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold. - FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • ON HOLD Arts organizations such as SLOMA are on hold for now and uncertain about the future, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold.

"It's a challenge to figure out how to run things and how best to handle the situation while keeping our donors and members apprised of what's happening and keeping them updated," said Maryellen Simkins, the interim executive director at SLOMA. "We're trying to provide content online [so] people know we're around and intend to stay around."

For SLOMA, these online efforts include adding more content, such as planned artist interviews and student outreach programs. On stage, SLO Rep is trying to bring a slice of its theater to community members at home.



"Theater is all about bringing people together, and, unfortunately, we can't do that under one roof right now," SLO Rep Managing Artistic Director Kevin Harris said. "So the only way we can really do it is—virtually —by creating this silly talk show where we keep asking people to do stuff."

Creativity brought "The Intermission Show" to fruition, allowing SLO Rep to reach out to actors nationwide to contribute and create content. Harris said he hopes the show can be a central hub for local arts organizations "that are suffering in the same way that we are."

PACSLO’s sharing material from local arts companies to their social media platforms to show "the arts are still alive and prospering, even in this unprecedented time," according to PACSLO Marketing and Communications Manager Kristen Teufel, who responded to New Times questions via email.

But uncertainty about when the pandemic will end leaves many in the community wondering when their doors will re-open and when they can make up lost revenue — or even how much revenue they will eventually need to make up.

"I can't even tell you—I don't even know," said Connie O'Henley, the Clark Center's executive director.

O'Henley attributed the uncertainty to whether the venue can stage the future events that have rented the center. Some events were pushed forward in hopes that they'll be hosted, O'Henley said, but other events have been canceled, such as church gatherings.

"I probably won't know until the dust completely settled where we thought we would be and where we actually ended up," O'Henley said.

PACSLO is projected to lose $400,000 as a result of 42 event cancelations due to COVID-19, according to Managing Director Chris Miller. SLO Rep has lost $75,000 of its income because of show cancellations, according to Harris. Canceling more shows in the summertime, Harris said, could mean up to $200,000 lost for SLO Rep.

Although shows through May and June have mostly been canceled, not knowing when the pandemic will be over means that events set for later in the year are still up in the air.



Festival Mozaic postponed its WinterMezzo concert series to September. However, Executive Director Lloyd Tanner told New Times that the 2020 festival will be held during its original time frame from July 18 to Aug. 1 for the time being.

"We're trying to hold on to as much time as possible that we'll be able to put forth the offerings we have planned," Tanner said, adding that he hopes the festival's 50th anniversary can go on for both the community and performers. "We hope that our audience is as hungry for feeding that part of their soul, as we're all going to be excited to head to our favorite restaurants." Δ

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