MILWAUKEE— The performing arts sector was hit hard by the pandemic and local arts leaders said it continues to struggle in current economic times.

What You Need To Know

  • Members of the United Performing Arts Fund generate more than $80 million in economic revenue

  • In the last year ,160,000 Milwaukee-area youth took advantage of UPAF's free education program

  • This season, UPAF operated with ticket sales between 20% to 50% lower than pre-pandemic levels


Patrick Rath, president and CEO of the United Performing Arts Fund, said that among UPAF's 14 members, more than $38 million was lost over the past three seasons. 

Since the performing arts reopened in the Milwaukee area in the fall of 2021, Rath said it's been a slow journey back.

"For the most part, we had capacity around 50% of our traditional capacity for our theaters, and it really wasn't until the month of May that we started to see people come back," Rath said.

Jonathan Edwards in MACBETH. First Stage, 2022. Photo by Paul Ruffolo.

That lost income is critical to fund UPAF's youth education program. Rath told us in the last year that 160,000 youth took advantage of its free programs.

Right now, Rath said members face a deficit for next year, something that will also be felt in the community. According to Rath, the economic impact of UPAF's members is well above $80 million for the greater Milwaukee area.

"We know the arts are essential to our community, not only the joy that it brings to so many people but it means people coming back into our downtown community, bringing vitality to that, using our restaurants, our bars, our hotels."

Rath said the hope is audiences will soon fill seats like the pre-pandemic days. Check out upcoming performances and ways to donate, here