Under normal circumstances, Mike Miclon would be busy this time of year.

This is when the artistic executive director of the Johnson Hall Performing Arts Center would be putting together the lineup for the free 10-week summer concert series in Gardiner’s Waterfront Park.

But with new coronavirus cases being reported daily across the state, it’s not clear that any kind of live summer entertainment will take place this year in central Maine.

On Tuesday, Gov. Janet Mills extended Maine’s state of civil emergency through May 15, which gives her the authority to continue using executive powers to extend restrictions on businesses and public gatherings to slow the spread of coronavirus, which causes the respiratory disease COVID-19.

Public officials are starting to consider how those restrictions may be lifted, with no indication of when it would be safe to do so. And without that kind of determination, organizations planning summer entertainment are now in limbo.

On Thursday, the Gardiner Main Street board of directors canceled the Greater Gardiner Riverfest, which takes place the last weekend of June. It marks the start of the summer concert season in Gardiner.

“In those 10 concerts, we see about as many people as we see in 50 shows (at Johnson Hall),” Miclon said. “People are so thankful for it. It’s free; it’s good, and it’s a tradition now.”

While they are free to the public, they are not free to put on. Johnson Hall secures sponsorships to pay the performers and the costs of putting on the outdoor performances.

Miclon is not quite ready to write off the whole summer yet. He said he’ll make a decision in early June, rather than string out the process over weeks.

“I’m hopeful we’ll be able to do some,” Miclon said. “But even when the government or the state says, ‘All good!’ I think the post-traumatic stress will keep people from going out,” he said.

One option might be four concerts in August, he said, but it’s clear now it won’t be a full season.

“It’s a really scary time,” Julie Richard, executive director of the Maine Arts Commission, said.

While some performers may have the ability to try online performances, many organizations don’t have that same kind of option, she said.

“You can do some things online, but as far as major ticket sales or major gatherings, no,” Richard said. “From everything I’ve been hearing, this is really not going to be over until we a have vaccine of some kind or a treatment of some kind. And nobody wants to put a time frame on that.”

The impact of widespread closures is already being felt in the performing arts community.

Americans for the Arts, a national arts advocacy organization, has been gathering data about the impact of coronavirus via a national online survey for arts and cultural organizations. In Maine, as of April 7 — the most recent information available — 134 organizations have completed the survey. Of that number, 89% of organizations have canceled events, resulting in $708,225 in financial losses.

Some organizations across the region have already posted notices on their websites announcing the cancellation of upcoming shows and performances.

At the end of March, Waterville Creates! advised it was suspending public programming at the Waterville Opera House, Railroad Square Cinema and Common Street Arts.

“Because everything we do is designed to bring people together in celebration of creative expression, this decision has impacted every aspect of our organization — from programming and staffing to marketing and development,” the statement reads.

The majority of the organization’s staff was furloughed because of the cancellations of its programs and the loss of revenue that resulted. That’s expected to last until programming can be resumed.

On Thursday, Dawn McAndrews, the producing artistic director of the the Theater at Monmouth, Maine’s only professional summer repertory theater, said via email that the organization’s board and staff are weighing options for the summer.

“In the meantime,” McAndrews wrote, “we have paused ticket and subscription sales until we have updated recommendations from the CDC as well as guidance from state and federal governments. This pause allows us the most flexibility as we continue to monitor the evolving situation. Our greatest concern is the health and well-being of our patrons, staff, artists, and most importantly, our community.”

In South Paris, the Celebration Barn, which offers immersive physical theater training, has canceled its 2020 programming. That includes workshops, residencies and performances.

The Maine Arts Commission started its outreach efforts at the end of March, letting both individual artists and performers as well as organizations know what resources are available for them, including local and state artist relief funds.

Richard said the organization is working to fast track grants to help organizations that are dealing with shutdowns and the instant loss of income. It’s also offering webinars, teaching tools and organizational tips that can help people.

“We don’t have a crystal ball, and we don’t really know what’s going to happen,” she said.

Jessica Lowell — 207-621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ


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