Countless businesses are being forced to close their doors, at least temporarily, due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Businesses centered around the arts in Greenville have not been exempted from doing as others have done around them.
Emerge Gallery and Art Center have closed and canceled all of their events for the next eight weeks according to executive director, Holly Garriot. They will not be rescheduling any of their canceled events.
Garriot said they (Emerge) made their decision to close both because “the health and safety of our community members and staff is imperative” and to stay in accordance with Governor Cooper’s recent mandates and the CDC’s guidelines.
Among the events canceled was PirateFest, which is postponed to April 9 and 10 of next year, which Garriot said is one of their largest fundraisers. The financial burden from the temporary closing is significant.
“We see this as having an effect of 10 percent of our total income and that is only if we open our facility and classes after eight weeks. If it goes longer than that it could move closer to 25 to 30 percent of our total revenue, and potentially a $150,000 loss in cash,” Garriot said.
If forced to remain closed beyond the currently planned eight weeks, the closing could interfere with the summer camps at Emerge, which is another source of income for them. Taking that into account on top of the loss of income from their regular classes and fundraisers, Garriot said that Emerge could last through June before having to close its doors for good.
In the meantime, Emerge is still looking for ways to stay connected with the Greenville community, even though they can’t engage physically.
“We are working on increasing our social media and having more virtual interaction online. We are posting arts ideas, links to activities and have started doing mini classes as well,” Garriot said.
Jeff Blinder, founder of Spazz Presents, has canceled his upcoming “Spazz Fest.” The festival usually entails several days to a week of many bands playing at venues all over town. Blinder said it was a lot to plan and hard to let go, but he considers himself lucky among small businesses.
“While seeing six months of work unravel before my eyes is beyond heart wrenching. I’m in a position where I can just wait this thing out but each and every business, brick-and-mortar location affected is facing a near daily loss as the costs to pay staff, rent, utilities, etcetera do not just get to be put on hold,” Blinder said.
Blinder went on to point out that many businesses that were already in precarious financial situations, “will likely be shuttering their doors permanently and that is a shame.” While his business may survive the COVID-19 cancellations, he worries for the bands that he normally books that will have nowhere to play.
He said he waited a while to cancel Spazz Fest in an effort to allow bands to come to the decision to cancel their shows on their own. Blinder said that widespread gig cancellations will have a great effect on the artists he generally works with.
“The artists I work with are at a place in their career where even when one or two dates getting dropped can significantly affect routing costs, gas expenses, etcetera,” Blinder said.
And this is not one or two dates. Blinder pointed out that while “their entire industry is on lockdown,” artists will still have all of their regular living expenses with nowhere and no way to perform and do shows to support themselves.
Blinder said that the cancellation of Spazz Fest and the loss of the “togetherness and sense of place” that is meant to bring is “saddening and maddening.” But his outlook wasn’t all negative.
“As a good friend and supporter of the festival said, ‘We need to look at the light in the distance, not the dark around us.’” Blinder said.