Performance spaces like theatrers and live music venues have been dark for months now, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to prevent audiences from gathering in meaningful enough numbers to be profitable and safe.

And unfortunately, many of our favorite places to take in entertainment may not be there when we are allowed to gather again.

"We're learning things like, through Americans for the Arts' national study, only 53% of arts organizations expect to survive this virus pandemic," Ann Marie Miller, director of advocacy and public policy for the ArtPride New Jersey Foundation, said.

Even before the crisis, ArtPride and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts had been gathering data in an initiative called "Keep Jersey Arts Alive," which has taken on new significance.

"We've put a lot of thought into how to take the data and engage it with images that talk about what you would miss if the arts weren't there," Miller said.

Those images, on the Keep Jersey Arts Alive page on ArtPride's website, are stark and striking: black-and-white photos of an empty auditorium, an empty art gallery, and an empty classroom with easels.

They are backed with videos detailing the economic, educational and health impacts of the arts on the Garden State, complete with a county-by-county breakdown.

"The data is there to talk about the fact that there are 22,000 jobs that fuel the arts in New Jersey, but basically those people aren't working right now, or the majority of them aren't," Miller said.

The tagline being used by ArtPride and the Keep Jersey Arts Alive effort is "recovery depends on you," and while the average New Jerseyan does not have the power to reopen and welcome a crowd into their favorite theater, they can buy tickets to virtual events, make a donation, or simply use the website's resources to learn more about their particular community's commitment to the field.

Miller said you can also thank your legislators for their financial backing of arts organizations to date — but still make a case for further support, especially when many groups have been busy making masks and other protective gear, or offering special classes and services to keep children engaged.

Keep Jersey Arts Alive will continue even after these spaces are allowed to open for in-person performances again, according to Miller.

"This is going to take a long time," she said. "We were among the first to close down, and probably among the very last to open up fully."

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