‘Curtains Up NYC’ Initiative Aims to Help Struggling Performing Arts Venues – NBC New York

What to Know

  • The damage brought on by the ongoing pandemic to the world of live performances has been strongly felt by the arts and entertainment community: they were among the first businesses to shutter and could be among the last to open up.
  • Although COVID-19 has halted live performances, whether it be concerts or theatrical acts, New York City is already planning on helping its arts, entertainment and nightlife businesses come back stronger than ever thanks to the Curtains Up NYC initiative, which aims to help qualified entertainment businesses obtain federal grants.
  • Curtains Up NYC offers free application assistance for city businesses and nonprofits connected to the live performance sector applying for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program.

The damage brought on by the ongoing pandemic to the world of live performances has been strongly felt by the arts and entertainment community: they were among the first businesses to shutter and could be among the last to open up.

Although COVID-19 has halted live performances, whether it be concerts or theatrical acts, New York City is already planning on helping its arts, entertainment and nightlife businesses come back stronger than ever thanks to the Curtains Up NYC initiative, which aims to help qualified entertainment businesses obtain federal grants.

The federal government has set up the Shuttered Venue Operators (SVO) grant program, and while live venue operators affected by COVID-19 disruptions should move quickly to apply for these new grants, the grant process can be confusing and tedious, according to city officials. This is where the city’s initiative comes into play.

Curtains Up NYC offers free application assistance for city businesses and nonprofits connected to the live performance sector applying for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program.

“We are the greatest city in the world in large measure because art and culture runs through the veins of this city like no other place on earth and we are so proud of that,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said during his coronavirus press briefing Monday. “We have to bring this community back strong. Its been hit really hard by COVID, whether you are talking about the biggest cultural institutions down to the smallest community based cultural non-profit, its been really tough. We particularly need to bring back that most vibrant element of our culture, which is live performance, live theater, nightlife, music, concerts, all those things need to start coming back.”

The mayor went on to say that the city will “make sure that New York City cultural institutions get the help they need as part of the comeback. So we are going to make sure we do an outreach effort to help our cultural institutions” with the help of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment.

Curtains Up NYC will provide free webinars and 1-on-1 counseling to help local live performance industry get federal money from the SVO grant, which has a pool of roughly $10 million.

The city is setting out on the mass outreach campaign since TV/film, publishing, digital, advertising, nightlife, theater and music are a huge part of the city’s economy — providing 500,000 jobs and $150 billion in economic impact per year. City officials were quick to note that when people come from out of town to New York City to see a show, they just don’t just see a show, they come to eat and shop at small businesses as well.

The Commissioner of the Office of Media and Entertainment Anne del Castillo echoed the same sentiments as the mayor: arts and entertainment are the heart of New York City. “They are what makes us a global capital and they are what fuel our local economy,” she said.

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“Live venues, in particular, are a critical piece of our creative community and have arguably been among the hardest hit. They were the first to close and, in all likelihood, they will be the last to open. The impact of these closing, though, extend far beyond the stages on which these performances take place,” del Castillo said.

“To help ensure that every single federal dollar possible goes to our venues here in New York City – live venues, theaters, clubs, performing arts spaces, theatrical producers, talent representatives, movie theaters — we want to give them the assistance they need to put forth the strongest application and most importantly, be first in line. People can sign up today so that they are ready to apply as soon as the applications go up,” del Castillo went on to say about Curtains Up NYC.

According to the city, the businesses listed below qualify for the SVO grant and can seek help from Curtains Up NYC:

  • Operators or promoters of places that have live performances
  • Theater producers
  • Live Performing arts organizations
  • Museums, zoos and aquariums that meet certain guidelines
  • Movie theaters
  • Talent representatives
  • Must have been operating as of Feb. 29, 2020
  • Must not have applied for a PPP loan on or after Dec. 27, 2020

“This is part of how we come back strong. So we are going to work hard to make sure that new York culture institutions get the help that they need and they get back strong, bring people back to work, help neighborhoods come back to life. And you know what? People are going to see it and people are going to start gravitating back to New York City because of everything we have here. It’s going to all come alive in 2021 and that is going to be really exciting to be a part of,” the mayor said.

For more information, visit nyc.gov/CurtainsUpNYC.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo also touched upon the reopening of theaters during his coronavirus press briefing Monday. When asked whether testing will be implemented to get the theaters open soon, Cuomo said that is where the effort is heading.

Cuomo said there is hope that New York could allow Broadway, alongside other entertainment venues, to reopen with some limitations. The state would likely impose a cap on audience sizes, require every person to provide a negative COVID-19 test before entering and require proper air ventilations systems in theaters, the governor said.

“The next testing phase is headed toward reopening with testing and we are going to be smart, but also aggressive about it,” Cuomo said before touching upon the state’s pilot program involving the Buffalo Bills playoff game last month in which nearly 7,000 spectators were tested before attending the game. It was part of Cuomo’s experiment to test and trace a single group several thousand in size.

Drive-thru testing was overseen the Wednesday and Thursday prior to the Saturday, Jan. 9 game to test the approximately 6,700 fans allowed in the stadium. All attending fans, plus 200 employees and members of the member, had to have received a negative test for COVID-19 within 72 hours of kickoff.

On Monday, Cuomo said that there was no evidence in contact tracing of increased spread related to the game.

“If you can reopen using testing, take it to the next step. We just said catering halls, wedding ceremonies can go up to 150 with testing,” Cuomo said alluding to his announcement last month that would allow some venues to reopen for wedding ceremonies with limited capacity beginning on March 15 if everyone attending is tested and organizers receive approval from their local health department ahead of the event. “Testing as a way to reopen, we are going to expand that…There are venues that we want to start to reopen with testing and capacity limitations….Why can’t you do it with Broadway? You can. You can open a Broadway stage with a set percentage of occupants where people have tested prior to walking in to that Broadway theater.”

On Monday, the governor also announced the launch of NY PopsUp – a festival featuring hundreds of pop-up performances, many of which are free and all open to the public. This series of events, is intended to revitalize the spirit and emotional well-being of New York citizens with the energy of live performance while jumpstarting New York’s struggling live entertainment sector. The pop-up entertainment festival is a private/public partnership overseen by producers Scott Rudin and Jane Rosenthal, in coordination with the New York State Council on the Arts and Empire State Development.

The Festival will serve as a “pilot program,” creating the state’s first large-scale model for how to bring live performance back safely after this prolonged COVID-related shutdown, the state announced.