Sarah O’Connell is an arts advocate and cultural community connector. The theater director founded the website Eat More Art! Vegas in 2015 to act as a support system and clearing house for the local arts. Now that COVID-19 has effectively shut down live entertainment, O’Connell has expanded her mission to include helping keep the local arts community afloat during the lockdown. Here’s what she’s doing to help.
Petitioning Nevada’s leadership
Seeing a need for immediate action, O’Connell sent an open letter to Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak on March 12 requesting rent forgiveness, mortgage relief and a moratorium on evictions for “wage workers and local companies.” She also requested that any relief for landlords be accompanied by a mandate to “preserve their current occupants.” So far, more than 9,600 people have co-signed the letter.
O’Connell’s COVID-19 wish list for the arts community
• Rent/mortgage relief for studios, venues and galleries
• Mandate that the LVCVA promotes local arts groups rather than just the Strip
• City-level grants program that can be used strategically to keep businesses open
A Facebook group and web resources
To help artists, performers and entertainment industry workers, O’Connell created the Eat More Art Vegas Corona Response Group on Facebook as well as a crisis response page, which lists a variety of resources at eatmoreartvegas.com/covid.
Why the arts are worth saving
O’Connell has a message for skeptics who think that the arts are not a priority: “When you’re stuck at home by order of the governor, what are you doing so that you can stand it? You’re going online and you’re looking for music videos, you’re looking for Netflix shows, you’re trying to find ways to feel less anxious, to feel connected to one another. All the things we’re doing to cope would not be possible were it not for an art sector in your community.”
What you can do to help
• If you had tickets to a show or event, O’Connell suggests taking the loss or “donating” the money rather than asking for a refund. “That’s cash flow still for the communities,” she says.
• She asks everybody to write to Congress and ask the government to fund the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She says that will be the most efficient and fairest way to help arts groups around the country.
• She suggests also contacting your city council and/or county commission and letting them know that you’re concerned about the local nonprofit arts community and small arts businesses.
• Finally, she recommends reaching out to your favorite art group, dance troupe or theater company and asking directly what they need. “Everyone’s going to need something a little different,” O’Connell says. “And everyone’s willing to take a call offering help.”