Credit: George Danby / BDN

The performing arts are in trouble, and we need your help, now.

For 125 years, our business at the Bangor Symphony Orchestra has been what is now classified as “mass gatherings.” Our business is 1,400 audience members at the Collins Center for the Arts experiencing the magic of “The Nutcracker.” Our business is a stage packed with 75 musicians backed by a chorus of 100 singers creating a beautiful wall of sound unlike any other.

Our business is hundreds of children dancing, clapping and singing as they learn about classical music for the first time at the Bangor Arts Exchange. Our business is bringing people together and forging that indefinable feeling of “community” through music and art.

And our business, as we formerly knew it, is not coming back any time soon. Performing arts organizations in Maine were some of the first to close once COVID-19 struck, and we will most certainly be some of the last to reopen. With indoor gatherings in Maine rightfully capped at 50 for the foreseeable future, the consensus among my performing arts colleagues around the state is clear: the road ahead will be long and hard.

That’s not just bad news for our sector. That’s bad news for the entire economy, because the arts mean business. Arts and cultural organizations add a value of $1.5 billion to Maine’s gross state product and provide up to 17,000 jobs. Every ticket purchased for a nonprofit arts and culture event in Maine results in $31 spent in the local economy, at restaurants, bars, shops and hotels. More than that, though, the arts are the cornerstone of the cities and towns we live in, providing that thing we call “quality of life” and helping us make sense of a world that grows more confusing by the minute.

Hopefully, the intrinsic value of the arts isn’t up for debate, but what certainly is up for debate right now is what relief funding we deserve. Despite accounting for 4.5 percent of the national GDP, federal and state relief spending to date has been nowhere near proportional. For the performing arts industry in Maine to survive until we can resume full operations and afford to address the many safety concerns unique to live performance — from upgraded HVAC to routine COVID testing for performing artists — my colleagues and I urge the following actions.

In Maine, the State Economic Recovery Committee must designate specific funding for the arts in its allocation of the state’s $1.25 billion in CARES Act funding. That funding should be proportional to our economic impact in the state and cognizant of the uniquely long path to reopening we face.

At the national level, Congress must replenish funding for a new round of the Paycheck Protection Program, expand the duration of Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program with greater flexibility for gig economy workers and provide more emergency funding to be dispersed by the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities and state arts agencies. We appreciate the growing support for the Save Our Stages (SOS) Act and hope this, too, continues to receive bipartisan endorsement as our venue partners struggle alongside us.

Locally, I invite all people in Bangor to ask: What do you want our community to look like after the threat of coronavirus subsides? Do you see yourself attending live concerts and theater performances? If so, your action is needed today.

Write to your elected officials advocating relief funding for the arts, and consider donating directly to the organizations that are meaningful to you. The future of the arts in Maine depends on it.

Brian Hinrichs is the executive director of the Bangor Symphony Orchestra.