Covid Era Virtual Programming Continues To Be Successful For Some Arts Orgs

Amid all the stories of arts organizations closing and scaling back, I saw a piece about a dance company in Dallas that has seen their situation improve with virtual and live programming during and after the worst of the Covid shutdowns. Public radio station KERA posted a story about the steps Dallas Black Dance Theatre took that increased their exposure and reach.

While many arts organizations – particularly those that serve communities of color – shut down or lost revenue during the pandemic, Dallas Black Dance Theatre Executive Director Zenetta Drew said the organization made $100,000 in net ticket sales in 2020 from online programming.


Drew said the theatre’s programming has continued to net six figures each year and has also brought in new audiences from across the world. Since 2020, DBDT has reached 38 states and 35 countries outside the U.S. with paid virtual content.


While virtual and in-person arts programming have been viewed as alternatives, Drew said it doesn’t have to be either-or. Instead, she said virtual programming “gives you a chance to really whet the appetite of folks to want to have that in-person experience.”

The proof? Demand for the company’s touring engagements has quadrupled since 2019. Drew said the increased exposure to art markets across the country led to paid gigs in spaces they’d never been before, such as Yale University and Seattle.

I heard that many performing arts companies scaled back on virtual offerings once live performances were permitted again. Perhaps the dance company’s approach of using virtual and live to complement each other and the framework of their content has been beneficial to them. They may have also hit a sweet spot with audiences who wanted/were interested in seeing people like themselves in performance.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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