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Struggling Artists Hopeful City Council Will Allow Outdoor Performances In Public Spaces With Program Similar To 'Open Streets'

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Theaters have been dark since the spring, but the spotlight is on a new plan that could allow shows to move outdoors.

Struggling artists are hopeful the New York City Council will pass a bill allowing arts and cultural groups to apply for free permits to use public outdoor spaces for performances, CBS2's Natalie Duddridge reported Thursday.

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"Do it now! Please do it now!" said Jena Van Elslander.

Van Elslander and her troupe of dancers have been filming socially distanced shows in Times Square every weekend, called the TSQ Project.

"People want to see that life and the energy and the hope that art and performance brings," she said.


It's been seven months since the coronavirus pandemic closed the curtains on performances.

Similar to the city's Open Streets program - which allows restaurants to operate on sidewalks - this would be called "Open Culture," allowing performers to apply for permits to use plazas, parks, parking lots and street corners.

"If we don't do something drastic to give them the opportunity to perform and to bring in revenue, many in our cultural community will cease to exist," said Jimmy Van Bramer, chair of the Council's Cultural Affairs Committee.

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The Metropolitan Opera announced it won't be reopening for another year.

Broadway is closed until at least 2021.

Comedy clubs are on pause until further notice.

"New York City's cultural sector is one of the largest industries in the world. And it is the back bone of New York City's economy, employing over 400,000 workers, paying over $30 billion in wages per year and generating more than $110 billion in economic activity," Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo said.

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Some performers have already been previewing what outdoor shows could look like.

"Trying to bring joy to New York and show everybody that we are here, we are alive," said Holly Anne Devlin, who produces pop-up events around the city.

For now, it's left to the City Council to determine if the show will go on.

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