Mayor hopes October event will be a boon to Winnipeg performing arts

Few sectors were hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than the performing arts, and Winnipeg’s mayor is hoping to help four of the city’s most iconic arts organizations as they continue to get back on their feet.

Scott Gillingham announced Friday that the city will hold the Mayor’s Ball — a fundraising event for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Manitoba Theatre Centre, and Manitoba Opera — at the RBC Convention Centre this fall.

The event, slated for Oct. 5, will feature performances by all four organizations.

“All of us can agree that Winnipeg’s performing arts community is an important part of our city, and these organizations have played a vital role — a leading role in our city’s story,” the mayor said.

“They have been and they remain essential to Winnipeg’s richness, vibrancy and appeal.”

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Although pandemic lockdowns and restrictions have long been lifted, the mayor said performing arts organizations continue to slowly regain live audiences — comparing it to the gradual return of employees to downtown office buildings.

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The Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s Andre Lewis said the pandemic was difficult on dancers even when creating digital content for remote audiences, as restrictions prevented any kind of closeness between performers.

“We had to be six feet apart. It was really tough on our dancers to make it happen,” Lewis said.

“It was a major challenge and financially, when you put people — even at the Concert Hall — six feet apart, it means way less people are able to be present to see the shows.

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“It had a huge impact on the organization. It certainly was something that we had to take into account.”

The WSO’s Angela Birdsell said research has shown that performing arts organizations across the country are experiencing the same slow recovery, with an estimated drop of 30-35 per cent in ticket sales when compared to pre-COVID highs.

“The celebratory aspect of this ball, this event, is going to be really important for the city, for the province to really appreciate what we have in the city of Winnipeg,” Birdsell said. “We’ve all heard the ‘punches above its weight’ expression.”

People who purchase tickets to the event, the city said, will receive tax receipts through the Winnipeg Foundation.

Click to play video: 'Manitoba arts organizations feel the post-pandemic pinch'

Manitoba arts organizations feel the post-pandemic pinch

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