This new law could help Birmingham’s performing arts organizations survive COVID + how you can help

The Alabama Symphony Orchestra and ASO Choir before COVID
Oh what a spectacle: a full choir, a full symphony and a full house. Photo via The Alabama Symphony Orchestra

On Tuesday, September 1, from 9PM-midnight, look for the Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center, Iron City, The Alabama Theatre + The Lyric lit up in red. Together with the Alabama Symphony Orchestra (ASO), they’re joining other theaters and event venues across the continent for the #RedAlertRESTART campaign. The goal? To shine a light on the industry’s current COVID-related struggle.

#RedAlertRESTART is a national campaign to help support the live events industry

In March, the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, The Alabama Theatre + The Lyric, local theatre companies and event venues ranging from The BJCC to Iron City all shut their doors. The thing is, even as restaurants, bars and retail began to open back up, these event-making organization and spaces didn’t.

Almost six months later, most of them are still closed. Why? A couple of key reasons make reopening not seem like a good idea:

  • Gathering lots of people in close quarters
  • The propulsion of large amounts of potentially virus-laden air (think instruments + singing)

A lot of livelihoods are affected by the shutdown

According to the U.S. Bureau of Arts and Culture, the Arts + Culture Sector makes up 4.5% of the US Gross Domestic Product. It employs 5.1 million people and provides $877 billion to the US economy. This is more than the transportation, agricultural and tourism industries. (I was surprised, too).

Here’s what the industry includes:

  • live concerts
  • theatre
  • other live entertainment

According to a recent Brookings Institute economic report, the performing arts industry is among the hardest hit. These estimates will give you a glimpse into the losses for creative industries across the US.

  • 1.4 million jobs
  • 42.5 billion, including more than 62% of arts workers filing for unemployment + 94% of arts workers reporting an income loss


The Alabama Symphony Orchestra invites everyone in the Greater Birmingham Area to join them in raising awareness for the plight of arts organizations and event presenters across the country.

Here in Birmingham, a lot of organizations are affected

Chances are, if you work in or around the arts and entertainment world, you know plenty of people who’ve been furloughed or laid off. You probably also know a lot of performers who are wondering when they’ll have the chance to offer their gifts to the world again.

Here’s how you can help

These days there’s a hashtag for everything, and this is no exception:

  • #WeMakeEvents
  • #RedAlertRESTART
  • #ExtendPUA
  • #SaveOurStages

You can use any of these to help raise awareness and urge the US Congress to pass the RESTART Act (S.3814).

Light up your home, porch or apartment, take photos and share on social media with any of the hashtags listed above, telling what live events mean to you.

Then write to your local Congressional leaders and encourage your people to do the same.

What the RESTART Act does

Carlos Izcaray conducting the Alabama Symphony Orchestra
Alabama Symphony Orchestra Music Director Carlos Izcaray. Photo courtesy of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra.
  • Offers economic relief to small businesses
  • Expands Pandemic Unemployment Assistance + the full $600 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (which provides relief to people without work due to COVID-19)

Ultimately, this act will help the show go on when the time is right.

If you’re like us and you love the performing arts, live events and the people who make them, you can find out more about this campaign + how you or your organization can get involved here.

Sharron Swain
Sharron Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference

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