By Alejandra Palacios
MILWAUKEE (WDJT) — U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin was in Milwaukee Saturday afternoon, Aug. 28. visiting the Pabst Theater to meet with recipients of a grant which provided funding to local entertainment venues affected by the pandemic.
Senator Baldwin and local representatives in the arts community said the Shuttered Venue Operator Grant, known as SVOG, made a big difference in keeping places like the Pabst Theater open during the difficult times businesses faced at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Pabst Theater hosts over 700 shows a year generating around $250 million in economic activity for our city. On March 11 of 2020 was the last show that we could do for 17 months,” said Gary Witt, President, and CEO of the Pabst Theater Group.
“It’s an industry that is dependent on people coming out of their homes and attending concerts or going to plays or going to musicals and to have that disappear meant that literally tens and thousands of people lost their jobs, lost their livelihood,” said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
Many at the event spoke about the uncertainty and anguish they felt at the start of the pandemic and the financial hurdles they faced.
The struggle inspired people like Witt to raise their voices for the arts industry.
“On April 12 Easter Sunday, we officially started the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) with just one simple goal, and that was saving the industry,” said Witt.
“How essential our performing arts and all arts are to our culture and our society was so evident,” said Senator Baldwin.
Senator Baldwin supported NIVA, which many believe was a key aspect in getting funding from SVOG for local venues and cultural institutions.
She added that this effort meant a lot to her due to her personnel connection to the arts industry.
“I grew up in a costume lab pre-kindergarten and first grade. I spent a lot of hours in a costume lab,” said Baldwin.
Senator Baldwin’s grandmother once helped University of Wisconsin-Madison as a seamstress when they were in need of somebody to assist in the costume prop shop.
“Part of the grant helps you to recoup some of the losses that you had during the time and allows you to come back to full employment and make needed repairs to our building that we have to make,” said Witt.
That’s why many arts-related businesses say they are grateful for the support.
Mayor Barrett and the Milwaukee Common Council proclaimed Aug. 28 as Senator Tammy Baldwin Day as gratitude for her fight in this effort.
The Small Business Administration has issued over 11,500 SVOG awards totaling $9.3 billion.
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