Photo: Colorado Artist Kristi Hoopes, now a Nashville resident | By Alicia Wallace, CNN Business | When the pandemic hit the US in March 2020, concert halls fell silent, stages faded to black and livelihoods hung in the balance. The US performing arts industry immediately lost more than half of its jobs; and unlike other hard-hit businesses such as restaurants, bars and barber shops, there was no swift rebound. The live arts suffered some of the deepest rates of job loss and have been among the most stubborn to return, remaining 21% below pre-pandemic levels, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows.

The pandemic not only stalled a major economic engine that includes film, TV, theater, advertising, digital streaming and museums, but it also altered career trajectories and set the US arts and entertainment industry back by years.

Although the shutdowns were most visible in places like Broadway and Hollywood, the damage has been especially pronounced in smaller cities with heavier concentrations of performance arts jobs and revenue, researchers for the Brookings Institution reported in September 2020.

Nashville, Tennessee — a city where the number of musicians and other performing artists is more than five times the national average — was one of them. Its creative industry lost more revenue from April 2020 to July 2020 than any other large US metro area, according to the Brookings report.

But Music City wasn’t muted for long. Nashville was the first major US arts and entertainment hub to reopen; and, thanks in part to a surge in business activity and an influx of new residents, it’s been one of the fastest-growing metros in the nation.

However, Nashville and other arts-heavy economies aren’t out of the woods yet, said Michael Seman, a co-author of the Brookings report and assistant professor at Colorado State University’s Arts Management school.

“Even with the momentum, venue owners and a lot of people within the creative economy, especially the independent artists, a lot of them depleted their savings,” Seman said. “They’re still trying to make up for the depletion of savings while trying to make a profit. It’s very challenging still.”
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● Dreams interrupted
● Creating art in a void
● ‘Art is not dying’
● During the past several months, more live events have started to return.

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