Students from the Sarasota High School circus magnet program train on the silks

Students from the Sarasota High School circus magnet program train on the silks.

While local arts leaders had hoped that 2021 would herald better days, with a return to full theaters, arenas and auditoriums throughout the community, COVID-19 is still having a huge and negative impact. For the Circus Arts Conservatory (CAC), health and safety and financial considerations have prompted leaders to cancel its upcoming Big Top season, including its Circus Arts Gala and Circus Sarasota 2021, the organization’s most notable international performance program. Also canceled is Cirque des Voix — Circus of the Voices, the annual collaboration of the CAC and Key Chorale.

The Gala and Circus Sarasota show are the largest annual income generators for the nonprofit. This will be the first year in its history that Circus Sarasota will not present a winter show.

“As we were monitoring the COVID-19 crisis over these last several weeks, we considered the unpredictability of travel, the safety and comfort of our artists and patrons as well as the long-term survival of our nonprofit efforts,” said CEO and co-founder Pedro Reis. “It is clear that the institution cannot shoulder the projected financial burden due to the forecasted drop in ticket revenue. This unfortunate cancellation is necessitated by our ultimate goal to ensure that Circus Sarasota continues to inspire audiences and artists for generations to come.”

The CAC expects to present as planned the Sailor Circus spring show, which takes place in the Sailor Circus Arena, with the dates to be determined. Organizational leaders are hopeful that it will be possible to safely — and profitably — gather again under the Big Top at Nathan Benderson Park again by early 2022, which is the 25th anniversary of Circus Sarasota.

The organization still has numerous programs running throughout the community. Its youth training program, Sailor Circus, is ongoing and its recent holiday show is available on the CAC’s website through January. A silks class is currently available to the community, small group/team-building experiences are available, and circus arts classes for children of all ages are under consideration. Education programs — including circus science for area classrooms and its circus magnet programs at Sarasota High and Booker Middle School — are benefiting students. The Sailor Circus Arena is available for rentals by businesses and nonprofits. All programs and rentals follow CDC guidelines for public health and safety.

“We share a common feeling of profound disappointment about these necessary cancellations with so many of our colleagues in the arts sector,” said executive vice president and co-founder Dolly Jacobs-Reis. “However, there are still plentiful ways in which people can continue to engage with the circus arts. And we must note that, without Box Office revenues, we need the community’s support more than ever to ensure our impact remains strong.”

While this is an unfortunate setback for the CAC’s annual budget and operations, the organization remains committed to serving the community in profound ways. The CAC has used its time during the pandemic to reimagine how its performance, training and education programs can reach a larger and more diverse audience. Its board of directors, executive team and staff are committed to ensuring that the CAC remains a vital cultural asset to the Southwest Florida region.

For more about the CAC or to learn how you can support the arts organization, go to circusarts.org.

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