Four Dancers Rehearsing

The Show Must Go On: Orange County Helps Local Arts Organizations During Pandemic

Community & Services

One on the hardest-hit groups during the COVID-19 pandemic has been the arts and culture community, from large performance groups like the Orlando City Ballet and Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, to smaller organizations and solo entertainers. As some performance venues remain closed or working at partial capacity and in-person interactions remain dramatically decreased and discouraged due to the CDC’s COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, many individuals have had little or no opportunities for work.

In order to provide some relief, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners recently approved the Orange County COVID-19 Reopening Arts Grant Programs, which is being funded by a portion of the County’s CARES Act funds. Approximately $5 million has been earmarked for local arts organizations to purchase personal protective equipment and equipment for facility updates, and convert performances spaces to outdoor facilities.

“The isolation and loneliness caused by social distancing guidelines has caused stress and anxiety among the general public,” explained Juliana Steele, interim president/vice president of administration and CFO of United Arts of Central Florida, which is administering and managing the program. “The arts are a powerful tool for mental health treatment; being able to host safe, socially-distanced public performances and activities gives people the opportunity to connect with one another.”

The Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts was one of the organizations that received a CARES Act grant to help support the health and safety of staff, performers and guests during its new Frontyard Festival. The festival is an innovative, six-month live-entertainment, outdoor event that aims to re-engage artists. Guests are able to enjoy live music, comedy, dance, film and wellness events in a safe, socially-distanced setting.

“Many people employed in the arts community are hurting, so we’re trying to assist in any way we can,” said Terry Olson, director of Orange County Arts & Cultural Affairs. “Helping make performances and activities available to the public in a manner consistent with CDC guidelines for social distancing, sanitation, masking and crowd-control is an important part of our response to this pandemic.”

The County also launched its Art in Public Parks Initiative, which was established to create access to COVID-19 social distancing-compliant performance spaces in local parks. Six Orange County Parks and Recreation facilities are available to rent through this initiative, including West Orange Park, Clarcona Horse Park, Cypress Grove Park, Meadow Woods Park, Ft. Christmas Park and Barnett Park.

“Providing these outdoor locations allows residents to gather safely and enjoy performances and activities hosted by the arts and culture community,” said Olson.

For qualifications, eligible expenses and fees associated with these programs, visit

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