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Symbolic “Empty Event” recognizes COVID-19 impacts to live event industry (photos and video)


The #SaveLiveEvents movement came to Reno this past Saturday evening with an Empty Event in front of the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts. Part of a larger national effort to gain the attention of federal lawmakers, it was the second time this month that entertainment and events workers came together to show the community how many people in the industry have been impacted by COVID-19 closures and restrictions. The Paint Our Town Red event on Sept. 1 bathed downtown attractions and businesses in red light.

Within the Pioneer Center’s front plaza a stage was constructed, lighting and speakers installed and tables and chairs arranged to create a memorable night on the town. And barricades surrounded the setup to stop people from attending, which would violate the governor’s restrictions on large gatherings.

The entire event was an overtly symbolic one to bring attention to the plight of the industry. Banners flanking the stage also told the story–80% lost revenue in 2020 and 90% of live events canceled. 

Artown Executive Director Beth Macmillan spoke at the beginning of the event, which was livestreamed on YouTube and Facebook. 

“We really are hoping that the day will come very soon when our performing artists and meetings industry can get back to work…when our community can come out and celebrate the arts, and we can really begin the healing process of having lived through this horrible year and this pandemic,” she said. 

Macmillan went on to recognize not just the artists, musicians and dancers on stage, but also those technical staff that work behind the scenes. A number of other industry and local leaders also spoke, including Sierra Nevada Ballet Executive Director Rosine Bena, Reno Little Theater Executive Director Melissa Taylor and Reno City Councilmember Devon Reese.

Live performances included dancers from Sierra Nevada Ballet and musician Eric Henry Andersen. The livestream also included recorded performances and speakers.

Passersby gathered sparsely around the outside of the event to take photos and watch a performance or two before moving on. 

Ty O'Neil
Ty O'Neil
Ty O’Neil is a lifelong student of anthropology with two degrees in the arts. He is far more at home in the tear gas filled streets of war torn countries than he is relaxing at home. He has found a place at This Is Reno as a photojournalist. He hopes to someday be a conflict photojournalist covering wars and natural disasters abroad.