RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN)– The arts industry was one of the first to shut its doors last year, and predictions show they will be one of the last to reopen fully because of the hesitation that might come with people being in a live audience again. 

With more businesses and industries opening across the state, the arts sector is still trying to get a slice of the pie.

“We estimate that in North Carolina that we’ve had a negative impact of about a billion dollars from having the nonprofit arts sector shuttered during this period,” said Vicki Vitiello, director of operations for the NC Arts Council.

Vitiello says in a typical year, the state arts council would be able to aware $7 million dollars in grant money, but because of the CARES Act and local funding, they were able to give out $15 million into the hands of artists statewide.

“If they didn’t provide this funding, most of our small, mid, and even some of our larger arts organizations would have to disband, have their employees seek other jobs,” said Melissa Zeph, executive producer for the Justice Theater Project, a small theater that buys scripts from Broadway then performs them using local, paid talent.  

“Just our little Justice Theater has employed over 150 artists this year,” Zeph tells CBS 17.

They were able to weather the COVID-19 storm by adapting, switching from live audiences to digital ones.  

ComMotion is another organization who received grant money. Some employees had to go six months without a paycheck when the pandemic first hit. Now they’re seeing growth like never before, even expanding into new countries thanks to the internet, and they believe the virtual aspect of the industry is here to stay.  

“We have new teachers, and the grant money is helping up pay those teachers, so we have multiple classes going on at once now,” said Robin McCall, executive director of ComMotion.

There’s no crystal ball to predict how the arts industry will bounce back, but Vitiello with the NC Arts Council says only a handful of organizations have had to pull the curtain, meaning people still value and appreciate the arts. 

The NC Arts Council is accepting grant applications from arts organizations right now. The deadline to apply is Monday, May 3rd. To apply, click here.