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The Curtain Must Rise Again

When the coronavirus (COVID-19) began to spread across the nation, the American way of life was turned upside down. Everything came to a halt, lives were at stake, and now we have all since experienced the grim realities of this horrific virus.

Prior to the pandemic, Kentucky Performing Arts (KPA) was poised for an exciting new era. We implemented a strategic expansion acquiring the Brown Theatre, opened Old Forester’s Paristown Hall, a modern flexible arts venue, and were hosting the most celebrated touring artists on our stages, like the Broadway sensation Hamilton. The Governor’s School for the Arts (GSA), a staple of our educational outreach, was preparing to bring together 256 young Kentucky artists at the University of Kentucky. In celebration of all this, we rolled out a new brand that better reflected our statewide mission, changing our name from “The Kentucky Center” to “Kentucky Performing Arts”. The future looked bright…or so it seemed.

As the largest performing arts organization in the Commonwealth, Kentucky Performing Arts (KPA) contributed more than $15.8 million to our local economy, with an additional $10.5 million economic impact by our patrons. Prior to COVID-19, we had reached an annual operating budget of nearly $25,000,000 that relied heavily upon earned and contributed income. As the virus began to spread, we closed our stages, and our primary revenue ultimately vanished. However, KPA reacted quickly and reduced every possible expense we could. This unfortunately resulted in a reduction of staff and salaries as well as us reducing our overall expenses by 75%.

Despite these challenges, and with the support of our donors and sponsors, we have been able to deliver meaningful, diverse programming that has supported hundreds of local artists through the streaming of live virtual shows. Pivoting to a virtual platform allowed us to continue to engage talented youth throughout the Commonwealth as our annual GSA program was hosted virtually this summer. In partnership with JCPS and StageOne Family Theatre, we also provided teachers with arts-rich curriculum and training for their virtual classrooms.

As an arts organization, we have discovered much about ourselves this last year. We have found a new sense of creativity, innovation, and resourcefulness – much like the artists we proudly support. KPA is an essential part of Kentucky’s arts and culture ecosystem, and through partnerships with resident organizations and other non-profits, we have been able to support their efforts with indoor high-quality streaming and outdoor live performances and events.

Although we have made challenging, painful decisions along the way, there is now hope of reaching the other side as vaccinations are being distributed nationwide. The performing arts industry was one of the first to close our doors and understand we will be one of the last that can safely reopen. Reopening will require more than a million dollars in capital investments, facility modifications, and ramp-up costs.  All of this is an investment in the future of our local and state economies, communities, and youth across Kentucky. KPA is optimistic about the future, and we remain committed to ensuring the safety of our patrons and artists is a top priority.

More than 35 years ago, The Kentucky Center opened, bringing together the public and private sector to create an enduring community asset that would have big and lasting impact on the Commonwealth.   Today, it will take that same level of commitment to allow us to continue to serve as a beacon for the arts and culture in our community.

By investing in artists, providing jobs, and helping drive the tourism and entertainment economies, we have become essential to Kentucky’s cultural, educational, and economic success. We have a major role to play in bringing our community back together through the power of the performing arts.  However, right now, we are in a prolonged intermission, and we need your help to ensure the curtain will rise again. 

Kim Baker

President and CEO, Kentucky Performing Arts


For more information on how you can support Kentucky Performing Arts, please visit

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