Riverside Theatre in Parramatta cancelled 57 events, which affected 1141 cast and crew, according to executive producer Joanne Kee.
Employment of creatives and crew crashed for Penrith Performing and Visual Arts, incorporating Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre, Q Theatre, Penrith Conservatorium and Penrith Regional Gallery.
Even after adapting to the digital world, the closures meant casual wages were down on budget by 55 per cent and artist fees had fallen 60 per cent, prompting chief executive Hania Radvan to say: “that’s a lot less local creative employment.”
The scale of arts company losses in western Sydney has been quantified in an open letter to the NSW government which welcomed support but called for the sector to share in the $50 million lifeline.
The emergency stimulus will be available to non-profits that receive Create NSW funding on a case-by-case basis. Other companies will be eligible if assessed to be of economic and cultural significance.
Local government-funded arts organisations deliver most arts and cultural activities outside the Sydney CBD and were facing a massive financial crisis due to the pandemic, Dagostino said.
Campbelltown Arts Centre receives two-thirds of its funding from local government, raising the rest from box office, grants and donations.
“It is critical that stimulus support is afforded to local government-run arts organisations in line with other parts of the arts and cultural sector,” Mr Dagostino said.
“Like many arts organisations at the moment, we are faced with unexpected costs and have had to bear the brunt to ensure the venue is COVID-safe,” he said.
Small to medium-sized arts companies in western Sydney and local government-run arts centres, theatres, galleries and studios contributed directly to hospitality, employment, community, tourism and health across the state.
“Western Sydney communities will be dramatically affected if we miss out on this stimulus,” Mr Dagostino said. “We will continue to deliver our program, although on a much smaller scale, when now is the time we should be growing to meet the needs of our expanding community.”
The timing of the shutdowns could not be worst for the nascent Arab Theatre Studio. With no funding, performer Alissar Chidiac said the shutdown had come as a body blow.
“Just as we completed a two-year residency with a successful production in the old Granville Town Hall — just as new creative connections were opening,” he said.
The much-acclaimed Urban Theatre Projects predicts a 61 per cent decrease in performance income and a 57 per cent decrease in anticipated sponsorship and donations this year.
Dr Jessica Olivieri, UTP’s artistic director, said the revenue slump affected the group’s ability to annually employ more than 40 casual staff and 90 artists “not to mention the support of local business we would normally engage this year and into the future”.
The signatories warned the region’s arts ecosystem was interconnected and fragile. “Western Sydney communities are the fastest growing in the country and will be dramatically affected if any one organisation in the region is ineligible for this stimulus package,” they wrote.
Linda Morris is an arts and books writer at The Sydney Morning Herald