Emily C. Roush
The Ashland Beacon
On September 1, passersby noticed a red glow illuminating the Paramount Arts Center saw the Paramount Arts Center. These red lights are part of a national social media campaign meant to draw attention to the struggles live event venues are experiencing because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the web site wemakeevents.org, “On September 1, 2020, #WeMakeEvents North America, a coalition of industry professional supported by trade bodies, businesses, unions, and nonprofit associations, lit up more than 2,000 performance venues, iconic structures, and residences in red in over 75 cities and towns across the United States to raise public and media awareness in support of the live events sector.” The website also provides several staggering statistics that show the impact of the pandemic on the multi-billion dollar live events industry including that 95% of live events have been canceled because of COVID-19 and that 96% of live events companies have cut staff and/or wages.
David Miller, the Paramount’s Marketing and Community Engagement Coordinator, further explained the campaign's mission. “The #WeMakeEvents campaign is an effort to bring awareness to the dire situation concert and arts venues find themselves in during the current pandemic. The nature of this health crisis makes it extremely difficult to continue providing the live events we have in the past.” He continued, “This campaign is meant to shed light on that as well as apply pressure on policymakers to provide government funding to save our beloved arts venues across the nation.”
When staff at the Paramount learned of the #WeMakeEvents campaign, they immediately wanted to join it. “It was a no-brainer for the Paramount to participate in the campaign,” said Miller. He continued, “We were made aware of it through a local union organizer who works on shows at our theater as well as other area venues such as the Mountain Health Arena in Huntington.” He noted the strong ties local venues have to each other because of common staff. “We share union event staff with many regional venues and as a result, those workers create a net connecting us all together. This was an opportunity for us to ask for support for our in-house staff as well as the shared union staff we all care deeply about.”
Like thousands of live events venues across the country, the Paramount had to make the difficult decision to cancel events early in the spring. “We initially took a break in mid-March and even canceled an event the day before it happened out of an abundance of caution. Everything seemed to shut down overnight,” stated Miller.
The initial break in March was followed by a couple months of remaining fully closed to, according to Miller, “allow health professionals to assess the situation and be able to offer guidance.” Staff at the Paramount are now working with the state and local health departments to offer live events that will include limited, socially distanced seating.
The Paramount is also producing outdoor events and exploring virtual event options. Miller is excited for the uptick in event offerings that this fall will bring. “We have quite a few shows planned for the theater again in October that are limited tickets and spaced out. October is when you’ll see us really kick back into gear in terms of doing more shows. They’ll just look a little different for the time being.”
There are many ways that people can support the Paramount Arts Center and other venues participating in the #WeMakeEvents campaign. The website wemakeevents.org has a form people can use to write their congressional representatives to ask them to support and fund live events venues. It also encourages people to post on social media red tinted photos of their favorite venues and/or venue workers with the hashtags #WeMakeEvents and #RedAlertRESTART.
The most important and timeliest way to help live events venues right now is to patronize them. “One of the biggest ways people can show support is to find a show they think they’ll enjoy and buy a ticket,” said Miller. Tickets for a variety of shows taking place at or through the Paramount Arts Center can be purchased online at paramountartscenter.com or by calling the Box Office at 606.324.0007. The Paramount, a nonprofit, also accepts monetary donations.