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California arts groups were forced to evolve under new law; COVID-19 made the transition ‘catastrophic’

Even before the coronavirus entered the picture, the Los Angeles-based Pacific Opera Project faced a daunting challenge in January: turn an operation with just three official employees into a company with about 200 singers and other part-time employees on payroll. The move was triggered by a new state law, AB 5, that aimed to expand […]

Even before the coronavirus entered the picture, the Los Angeles-based Pacific Opera Project faced a daunting challenge in January: turn an operation with just three official employees into a company with about 200 singers and other part-time employees on payroll.

The move was triggered by a new state law, AB 5, that aimed to expand benefits such as workers’ compensation and a minimum wage to people formerly classified as freelancers and independent contractors.

“We had the money and we said, ‘This is the law, we’re going to follow it,’” said the company’s founding Artistic Director and Chief Executive Josh Shaw. The opera company’s projected 2020 budget had been about $500,000, but with AB 5, Shaw saw his expensesballoon by $44,000.

Then COVID-19 came to California, and Gov. Gavin Newsom recommended canceling public gatherings of 250 or more people — just one day into Pacific Opera Project’s rehearsal for Mozart’s “Cosi fan Tutte.” The company, which had expected to make $57,000 from ticket sales, had to cancel the production instead, losing $22,000 on the venue rental, sets and costumes, artist fees and promotional materials.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.