The onslaught of COVID-19 has been devastating to local arts communities and organizations. As CultureMap has previously reported, the Alley Theatre was forced to cut its budget and shorten its season; the red-hot Broadway show, Hamilton, has been canceled due to coronavirus concerns.
Now, Houston’s largest and oldest performing arts organization, the Houston Symphony, has announced major cuts to its budget and cuts to staff. Some 21 staff positions will be cut, reducing the number of full- and part-time staff total from 83 to 62. This comes after staffers were forced to take pay cuts in March.
The symphony projects an estimated $11 million deficit for the 2020-2021 season. This comes in addition to 2019–2020 season losses totaling $7.8 million, which, according to the symphony, are offset by a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan, gifts from the board, donors, and foundations, and expense savings.
Thus, the symphony states that its survival depends on making cuts to expenses to eliminate the $11 million deficit, bringing the $34.5 million budget to $23.5 million.
Fans will see significantly fewer audience members in the hall due to social distancing programs. Additionally, some international guests who are regularly scheduled to perform may be hindered by travel restrictions. The symphony will also continue to offer remote and digitally based programming and content.
Meanwhile, the symphony is urging fans to participate in the popular live Living Room concert recitals by individual musicians from their homes, broadcasts on Houston Public Media, and the archived video and audio performances, musician performances, blogs, educational videos, and more. For more online features, fans can visit houstonsymphony.org/listenathome.