As the announcement of art events cancellations appear from Europe, the question is how could this event affect the arts. Locally here in San Francisco, there is the question of how this situation, if it develops as predicted, would affect the San Francisco economy overall and specifically the restaurant and club scene? These aspects of San Francisco life have always existed on the economic edge and profit margins can be slim.
Currently there are not any visible signs of change. Artists and venues are still booking shows. Postings on Facebook are even picking up with jazz artists suddenly appearing at venues such as Sweetwater Concert Hall in Mill Valley, Freight and Salvage and other spots. Of course all this could change quickly if we see the situation that has been appeared in Asia and now Italy and other countries. If this happens, then small venues would almost immediately feel the pinch. Some of the most interesting small clubs in the Bay Area like Red Poppy Art House and Bird and Beckett Books and Music would soon face the problem of rent and other operating expenses coming due. The question would then be how long will the situation of dwindling or tiny audiences last. Like with any crises, there will be little time to prepare. Fundraising will probably be only possible on social media. It is unlikely that the City of San Francisco and other towns will be able to respond to the financial crises of art venues in the midst of a major health disaster.
Right now all of this is unpredictable. But for those of us who consider the arts and music scene part of the essential character of the Bay Area, we will be watching closely. The answers to these questions may soon be known.
It was more than a century ago when the City of San Francisco emerged from the ashes of a major earthquake and fire. The City’s cultural life was destroyed and the economic losses were severe. We can only hope that the pandemic crises looming over us will bring artists and audiences together to save the crown jewel of West Coast culture. The time is now to show our support, encourage our artists, and face the future with the hope that the powerful spirit of our creators and producers will endure.