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Intermission is Over

If there is another industry that as suffered as much from the pandemic as tourism has, it must be the arts.

Of nearly 20,000 arts organizations surveyed by the nonprofit Americans for the Arts, 66 percent expect severe financial impact from COVID-19, while 11 percent are not confident their organization will survive the pandemic. 

But there is light on the stage. Art museums, theater groups, music festivals and symphony orchestras across the country are on the rebound, raising the curtain on new seasons and new lineups and opening their doors with new exhibitions and new renovations.

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures

Los Angeles

After nearly a decade of planning and a fair share of postponements, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures announced in February 2020 a firm opening date for December of that year.

But within weeks of that announcement, the pandemic had shuttered much of the world. The museum rescheduled its opening to April 2021 but once again had to postpone due to the pandemic, this time to September 30, 2021.

The Academy Museum, which is devoted to exploring the art and science of movies and moviemaking, recently announced its schedule of inaugural in-person screenings and public programs. During the museum’s first three months, it will offer the public over 115 film screenings, discussions and programs, beginning with special presentations of “The Wizard of Oz,” with live musical accompaniment by the American Youth Symphony. Visitors will also see a pair of ruby slippers used in the film among the museum’s collection.

The museum’s inaugural temporary exhibition, Hayao Miyazaki, is a retrospective dedicated to Miyazaki and his three animated feature films.

Seattle Theatre Group


The Seattle Theatre Group is reopening all three of its venues, with some help from a federal relief program.

The Paramount Theatre had been closed since March 2020 due to the pandemic, but the Small Business Administration recently awarded millions of dollars to STG as part of the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program.

STG’s Broadway at the Paramount unveiled new dates for the 2021-22 season, including six weeks of “Hamilton.” The season — which largely mirrors what STG had planned for the 2020-21 season — will open October 19 with “Jesus Christ Superstar.” “Hamilton,” which was originally scheduled to begin in May 2021, will instead debut in August 2022. 

STG already began hosting concerts at the Paramount and Neptune theaters in July and at Moore Theater in August. As of Aug. 12, STG will require proof of vaccination for entry to all performances at the Paramount, Moore and Neptune theatres or proof of negative COVID tests for individuals unable to be fully vaccinated.



The largest music festival in the U.S. is slated to return in September after canceling last year — the first time Summerfest was canceled in its 53-year history. 

In that time, the annual Milwaukee festival has grown to host 800-plus bands and 900,000-some fans over three weekends. Most of last year’s lineup shifted to this year’s festival, with headliners like Green Day, Weezer, Luke Bryan, Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, Guns N’ Roses, Megan Thee Stallion and Dave Matthews Band, to name a few.

Summerfest was originally scheduled to return for its usual weekends in June and July, but organizers pushed it out to September 2-4, 9-11 and 16-18 in hopes the festival would get past the surge in COVID cases. 

Milwaukee World Festival, which operates Summerfest, announced in August that a COVID-19 vaccination or negative COVID-19 test result will be required to attend the festival.

Denver Center for the Performing Arts


Denver Center for the Performing Arts was poised to have perhaps the biggest year in its history before the shutdown closed indoor performances. Denver Center’s Broadway program had announced a lineup in March 2020 that included “Hamilton,” Disney’s “The Lion King,” “Mean Girls” and more.

And most of them are coming back for DCPA’s reopening season. Four Broadway tours previously scheduled for fall 2021 will be postponed — “My Fair Lady,” “1776,” “Mean Girls” and “Ain’t Too Proud — The Life and Times of the Temptations.” DCPA Broadway anticipates reopening in The Buell Theatre with Disney’s “The Lion King” in December followed by “Hamilton” in February 2022.

The Bonfils Theatre Complex will reopen November 19 with “A Christmas Carol” to christen the fully renovated Wolf Theatre, formerly The Stage.

DCPA Theatre Company will open Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” on January 7 in the completely rebuilt Singleton Theatre, formerly The Ricketson, followed by world premieres of both “Rattlesnake Kate” and “In the Upper Room.” DCPA’s reopening also includes the return of Cabaret and Off-Center offerings.

Oakland Museum of California

Oakland, California

Oakland Museum of California reopened in June following a 15-month temporary closure — and museum officials didn’t let that time go to waste. During the shutdown, crews completed a major campus and garden renovation project, ready to debut when visitors returned.

The newly redesigned outdoor gardens focused on enhancing access to the multi-terraced campus, improving visitor amenities and updating and refreshing plantings to make the gardens even more of a community gathering place. Workers also removed an exterior border wall, added entrances and improved accessibility to physically open up the campus and make it more of a destination. 

In addition to the reinstallation of its sculpture garden, OMCA also commissioned local Oakland-based artist Binta Ayofemi to create sculpture- and artists-edition furniture — seating, tables and more — for the garden and other outdoor public spaces on campus.

The renovated campus also includes Town Fare, a new café by Tanya Holland, a Bay Area chef and restaurateur and former “Top Chef” contestant.

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra


The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra will return to Heinz Hall in September with a full orchestra in front of live audiences. In February 2020, the Pittsburgh Symphony announced a season meant to celebrate its 125th anniversary but had to cancel as the global pandemic spread.

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s 2021-22 season will be its 126th season — the 14th under music director Manfred Honeck and the first with in-person audiences at Heinz Hall for Principal Pops Conductor Byron Stripling, who was appointed in January 2020. The upcoming season includes 78 concerts: 50 classical concerts, 26 concerts on the Pops series and two Learning and Community Engagement concerts.

Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is also beginning the first of two phases of Heinz Hall renovations. This summer, a capital investment of $3.5 million included significant painting and restoration of plaster gold leafing and glazing in the lobby and foyer, updating and refreshing backstage areas as well as accessibility projects.

Austin City Limits Music Festival

Austin, Texas

Like most large events last year, COVID canceled the annual Austin City Limits Music Festival in 2020, which may explain why three-day passes to this year’s festival sold out in record time — and ​one-day tickets weren’t far behind.

Or maybe it’s the lineup for the ACL Festival’s 20th anniversary. LeAnn Rimes, Karol G, Girl in Red, Skip Marley and many more have joined the roster, in addition to the original lineup, which features George Strait, Miley Cyrus, Megan Thee Stallion, Billie Eilish, Doja Cat and more.

Taking place at Zilker Park in Austin, Texas, the 2021 festival has grown to two weekends — October 1-3 and 8-10 — with eight stages and over 130 bands.

Rachel Carter

Rachel Carter worked as a newspaper reporter for eight years and spent two years as an online news editor before launching her freelance career. She now writes for national meetings magazines and travel trade publications.