The Angelina Arts Alliance is feeling hopeful and optimistic about 2021 and grateful for the meaningful work accomplished in 2020.

Despite having to postpone an entire regular season, we are taking this time, this intermission, to take a deep dive into the meaning and value of our mission as an organization. This year we completed a Five-Year Strategic Plan, began a Cultural District Planning initiative in partnership with the city of Lufkin, and established a new office in downtown Lufkin.

More than 40 community leaders have stepped forward to serve on the Advisory Committee for Cultural District Planning and will formally meet in late January to begin the exciting process of planning to achieve a State Designated Cultural District.

Angelina Arts also found ways to remain vibrant, relevant and connected through small performances, outdoor performances, digital educational offerings and more to come in the spring. We simply cannot wait to get past this pandemic and welcome our patrons back with open arms at the Temple Theater and the Pines Theater again.

When we get past this pandemic, and we will, the arts in our community will play an even greater role as it will be essential to the social and economic healing process. The arts heal and bring people together. The arts build bridges. The arts create understanding and unity. The arts drive economic development. The arts drive tourism. The arts are essential to our well-being in every way imaginable. Yes, our mission is that important — so important that the Save our Stages Act was formally passed by Congress and signed by the President last week.

Thanks to the bipartisan legislative efforts of Sen. John Cornyn and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, $15 billion dollars in relief funding will be available specifically for independent music venues, theaters, cultural arts organizations, artists, agencies and others impacted by this horrible pandemic. Angelina Arts intends to apply for relief funding as soon as it becomes available.

This bill is not only long overdue relief for an industry that was the first to shut down and will likely be the last to reopen fully, it is a greater acknowledgement of an industry that supports over 4.6 million jobs and represents $166 billion in average annual economic activity.

We hope that you and your loved ones are safe and healthy, and remain so over the next several months. There is light at the end of this tunnel, and on the other side is an exciting season of outstanding performances. In the meantime, we will continue to find ways to keep the arts alive in our community.

On behalf of the Angelina Arts Alliance, we would like to wish you all a peaceful, joyful and prosperous New Year in 2021.

Jennifer Allen is the executive director of the Angelina Arts Alliance. Her email address is jallen@angelina.edu.