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Shuttered Venues Grant Program Lifts Up Local Performance Spaces

Picture House Regional Film Center (photo source: instagram.com/the_picturehouse)

Many of Westchester’s performing arts centers, big and small, finally have something to celebrate: a Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG). 

“The Shuttered Venue Grant was a true game-changer for the arts in America and has truly saved an entire industry from dissolution,” says Kathy Davisson of White Plains Performing Arts Center.

This federal grant is part of the American Rescue Plan and was established to assist venues that were closed during the pandemic. The funding amount amongst Westchester organizations ranged from the low thousands to the millions.

During the pandemic, most of Westchester’s performing arts organizations switched to virtual programming but received little in the way of ticket sales. Now, many SVOG recipients are using this new funding to offset losses incurred due to COVID-19, or to update HVAC systems in order to safely welcome back their audiences. 

The Performing Arts Center at Purchase College (PAC) received an SVOG for just over a million dollars. While they were closed to the public, the PAC presented virtual arts programming and dedicated its physical spaces to the school to serve as classrooms. This allowed Conservatory students to practice their craft in person while still remaining socially distanced. In addition, the lobby of the PAC hosted a COVID-19 testing center that served 1,300 students, faculty and staff each week.

Purchase College President Dr. Milagros Peña says, “The PAC welcomed our students, faculty and staff and helped keep the community safe, but now it’s time for them to do what they do best. This grant will allow the PAC to recover, and to prepare to present a robust, innovative season of performances.”

Taconic Opera received a $20,000 SVOG. During the pandemic, this county gem did everything it could to stay alive, including performing operas on a football field. CEO Dan Montez says that funds will “go straight to the art [they] create.” 

Montez explains: “We will be able to use a large orchestra to fund our fall opera on the last two days of October – Puccini’s masterpiece, Manon Lescaut. It will have been two years since we were back in our theater.”

Several organizations, including Westchester Collaborative Theater, The Picture House Regional Film Center and Irvington Theater will put funds toward upgrading their HVAC systems. 

Says Greg Allen, Theater Manager at Irvington Theater: “One thing the pandemic taught us is the importance of proper ventilation for the safety and comfort of our patrons.” 

Michael Hoagland, Executive Director at the Bedford Playhouse adds: “These funds will be used to offset the substantial revenue deficits we faced while closed for nearly 15 months.  Our industry has been decimated by the pandemic from a number of angles and we count ourselves lucky to have survived.”

All of Westchester’s cultural organizations that received an SVOG share this sentiment of gratitude.

Margo Amgott, Jacob Burns Film Center‘s Interim Executive Director, thanks Senator Schumer for championing “this crucial legislation.” Jacob Burns will use its SVOG “for personnel costs and operating expenses, including insurance, utilities and mortgage payments.”

The Capitol Theatre, which received a $5.4 million dollar grant, is grateful to both Senator Schumer and his staff, but also to the National Independent Venue Association “for all of their tireless advocacy work, [which] has done so much to help venues and promoters all over the country.”

Marketing Director Stefanie May explains that venues like The Capitol Theatre “will be able to continue creating jobs, but also contribute to the local economy and the culture of our community” – a community that is so glad to see local arts organizations turn their lights back on.

Other venues that received SVOG grants include Clocktower Players, Emelin Theatre, Arc Stages, Jazz Forum Arts, Paramount Hudson Valley Arts and Tarrytown Music Hall. 

Here are a few ways you can support local arts groups:

Artist Relief Fund Raises Funds for Artists Affected by Pandemic

Help Arts Groups Raise Dollars: Matching Grant Doubles Donations

A version of this article first appeared in the September issue of 
ArtsNews, ArtsWestchester’s monthly publication. ArtsNews is distributed throughout Westchester County. A digital copy is also available at artsw.org/artsnews.​​

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