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Sunday June 26th

N.C. artists raise funds for Cat's Cradle as industry struggles amid pandemic

The Aces perform live at Cat's Cradle's Back Room on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019.
Buy Photos The Aces perform live at Cat's Cradle's Back Room on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019.

As North Carolina reopens, performing arts across the state are far from returning to normal. 

Under Gov. Roy Cooper's phased reopening plan, entertainment venues across the state, including concert venues, will remain closed until at least July 17. 

Katie Murray, the director of the Orange County Arts Commission, said that the arts is one of the industries most impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

"We've got major unemployment," Murray said. "We've got organizations that are trying to hang on for dear life so that they can come back once this over. But it's been really hard."

Struggling to cover costs

Cat's Cradle, a popular music venue that has been around for over 40 years, is one venue that closed its doors due to COVID in March.

To aid the struggling club, several North Carolina musicians have collaborated on "Cover Charge: NC Artists Go Under Cover To Benefit Cat's Cradle," a digital-release cover album, to support the club's rent and other expenses, according to a press release from the The Splinter Group and LPC Media.

"With its concert calendar canceled and the building shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the club is struggling to cover rent and basic overhead costs," the release states. "With the prospect of drastically reduced revenue even after shows return, there is a growing need to help it survive until things normalize." 

Pre-orders for the album, which contains 25 covers of songs from multiple genres, began July 3, and the full album will be released July 31, with all proceeds going to Cat's Cradle. Artists on the album include Iron & Wine, Sam Melo of Rainbow Kitten Surprise, Mipso and more.

In the release, Cat's Cradle owner Frank Heath said this project reinforced his knowledge of Triangle artists as "amazing and caring" supporters of other artists and the music community as a whole, and encouraged him for the venue's future.

"This alone is huge, and it helps me to believe that more of us will come through this pandemic with fewer permanent scars," Heath stated in the release.

According to Cat's Cradle's website, free and paid livestreams of some concerts are available, but all live, in-person concerts have been postponed or canceled. 

The effects of Cat's Cradle's inability to do live shows stretches far beyond the concert hall, Katie Loovis, vice president for external affairs of The Chamber for a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro, said.

Loovis said the loss of revenue to local businesses from tourists who would normally come to see performances can add insult to injury in an unprecedented time.

"There is this sort of virtuous connection between our local businesses. When one does well, it helps the other," Loovis said. "Unfortunately, what we're seeing during a really unprecedented time during the pandemic is that the reverse is true. When one business is suffering, others can really feel it too."

Helping artists in Orange County

Murray referenced a 2015 study by the Orange County Arts Commission that found that about 1.9 million people attended arts events in the county that year, and that these attendees spent an average of $18.29 per person on expenses like food, childcare and lodging in addition to their cost of event admission.  

Murray said despite the small individual price tag, this spending can add up.

"Eighteen dollars doesn't sound like a lot when you're talking about one person," Murray said. "But when you multiply that — that's a lot of money, and all that money is being spent outside of the walls of Cat's Cradle. It's being spent in restaurants and businesses that are all around there."

The survey found that between audience spending and organizational spending, the arts are a $130 million industry in Orange County that generated $5.3 million in local government revenue in 2015. 

Through a donation-based relief fund, Murray said the Orange County Arts Commission has been able to provide grants to artists, nonprofit organizations and art industry workers.

"We set up a relief fund back in March, and we've issued two rounds of grants," Murray said. "So far, we've raised just under $60,000."

Murray said that along with nonprofit organizations, over 70 individual artists and art industry workers have received grants. The recipients have ranged from musicians and members of the local orchestra to poets who have been unable to fulfill their contract.

Murray said the Orange County Arts Commission is trying to be a hub of information for the arts community, holding virtual conversations to gauge what information and aid is needed. For the foreseeable future, Murray said, the arts community faces major needs across the board. 

"We've got our resources page set up on our website with all of these relief funds that have popped up all over. We've linked up people with other services within the county, like health screenings, housing and all the human service functions that the county provides," Murray said. "Our arts community is a major need of that."

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com

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