Toronto’s arts scene continues to struggle as pandemic wears on

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It is an indescribable feeling for rising actor and writer Athena Caitlin Trinh to perform in person. It’s a feeling she’s been chasing – largely through a screen – for the past 18 months thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“It’s weird because it’s not something we know to name, it’s just a feeling in the room,” said the award-winning National Theater School of Canada graduate. “So not having the opportunity to share space with people is a big hit.”

While Toronto has seen some businesses begin to make a comeback this year, major conflicts in the arts continue – according to a Toronto nonprofit survey, 70 percent of organizations reported less revenue in both 2020 and 2021 than before the pandemic. reported of. by the Toronto Foundation.


The survey detailed in the foundation’s 2021 Vital Science Report also found that 60 percent of arts sector organizations believe that COVID-19 affected their long-term sustainability, compared to 43 percent of non-arts organizations Is.

Still focused on kick-starting her career, Trinh has sent out several self-tapes (pre-recorded video auditions) and attended live auditions on Zoom throughout the pandemic, but it’s not the same. “In a pandemic world it’s like you’re sending it into a black hole,” she said.

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Roseneath Theatre, a non-profit youth-oriented production company, previously toured schools each week but has put these performances on hold due to the virus. “We’re not coming back anytime soon,” said the theater’s artistic director, Andrew Lamb.

Even for companies that are able to do shows in person, selling a venue doesn’t mean the same thing anymore with capacity limits. “When someone says, ‘I have a sold-out show,’ it sounds great, but the actors who worked on the show didn’t make as much money because they didn’t have that much money to go through,” according to To the lamb

Unable to tour prompts Rosneth to upload virtual performances to her Youtube channel To see the schools. Lamb said that each show has American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation and closed captioning — a level of reach that the company has never been able to offer in person.

“It’s the closest we can get to emulating everything we do digitally until we’re able to tour again,” he said. “We’ve been forced not to be personal for an industry that depends on being personally.”

And online transfer doesn’t always mean a return in revenue. according to a February 2021 Art Response Tracking Study68 percent of people are consuming free arts and culture content during the pandemic, while 13 percent are consuming paid content.

It’s not only artists on stage who have been affected by the pandemic – behind-the-scenes art workers, especially set, costume, sound and lighting designers, are facing a damaging impact, with some leaving the industry.

“These are the people who are very much a part of the gig economy who didn’t have a job right away,” Lamb said. “It’s not great that I’m not going to be able to hire some of the same people because they’ve moved to a different industry to make money like this.”

a . According to the results of the pandemic, revenue losses of more than $900 million are estimated in the first year of the pandemic. Survey from the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts.

Also in 2020, 22 live music venues across the city closed their doors – including the iconic Mod Club on College Street West. Each closing live venue in Toronto costs an average of 10 full-time employees, $575,000 in annual gross domestic product (GDP) contributions, and $148,000 in provincial and federal taxes. Study by NordCity for the Live Music Association of Canada.

Stachen Lett-Friedrich, executive director of Frontlines, a youth charity serving people aged six to 29, says that when the arts programs at her organization moved online, her aim was to ensure that those Anyone wanted to participate, she had access to do so – something she believes should move beyond the pandemic.

“A lot of these young people didn’t have the internet and the resources to be able to get involved in programs,” Late-Friedrich said. Amazon was sending deliveries to literally deliver supplies to people’s homes. “

A 2016 study called Demographic patterns in Canadian arts participation showed how participation in the arts can be determined by income. The study found that 95 percent of Canadians with a family income of more than $125,000 participate in arts programs, compared to more than 77 percent of those with a family income of less than $25,000.

Lett-Friedrich believes it is time to focus not only on reshaping art, but ensures it is done through a similar lens.

“When you look in the production industry, when you see what is on television, what you see in many prestigious cinemas, it is not racial, indigenous, marginalized,” Late-Friedrich said. “We know better because of this pandemic – let us do better after the pandemic.”

Irelyne Lavery is a Toronto-based staff reporter for the Star. Reach him via email: [email protected]
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