Texas Performing Arts receives nearly $9M grant to recover from COVID-19 pandemic

Sheryl‌ ‌Lawrence‌ ‌

After Texas Performing Arts canceled hundreds of performances and lost 93% of their income due to COVID-19, the group received about $9 million from a federal grant program to help businesses recover lost profits.

 The Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program gave over $16 billion in grants to venues in the United States that closed for long periods of time during the pandemic. The program began accepting grant applications in April 2021 and the funds are administered by the Small Business Administration Office of Disaster Assistance. 

Bob Bursey, executive and artistic director of Texas Performing Arts, said in an email the grant is unique because it is specifically targeted at the arts and entertainment industry instead of traditional small businesses. 

Bursey said the company renovated Bass Concert Hall in response to COVID-19 to create more space in the lobbies, improve air ventilation and filtration, and installed new systems for contactless ticketing and transactions prior to receiving the grant money. 

The venue plans to further improve health and safety precautions with the grant money, said Bursey. However, Texas Performing Arts cannot require masks or attendants be vaccinated at their live performances since it is a part of the University.

Bursey said Texas Performing Arts employed 55 full-time staff members before COVID-19, but has had as few as 30 during the pandemic. Many workers have retired and the company has been unable to fill those positions. 

 Phil Rosenthal, director of marketing and communications at Texas Performing Arts, said in an email the relief funds allow the venue to hire additional staff and provide resources for performers.

“With this support, we can raise the curtain on our 40th season this fall and return to playing our role as Austin’s biggest and busiest theater,” Rosenthal said.