LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Local artists are getting a boost from the downtown business community in Lakeland as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the arts.

The Lakeland Downtown Development Authority is hosting its first “Art & Wine Walk” next Friday to showcase local art.

The pain is felt over all genres, including the performing arts.

“We had to cancel a large portion of our performances,” said Jermaine Thornton, executive director of Florida Dance Theatre.

For Thornton and his dance theatre, the first professional dance company and training academy in Polk County, it’s been a rough year.

“We went from having close to 90 [students] all the way down to 10. We had to shift our programming to a lot of offering virtual projects and things like that,” he said.

Parents lost their jobs or saw their hours slashed and had to make tough decisions.

“Nutcracker, we grossed close to $30,000 last year. With the impact of COVID, we had to again, shift quickly so we’re collaborating with Sun’n’Fun on our first outdoor Nutcracker performance,” said Thornton.

The studio did receive federal grants and loans from the CARES Act, but is still in need of donations.

You can donate to the studio for its 27th anniversary by visiting here.

All artists in Lakeland have felt the impact.

“Sales have been down and the art shows have been down,” said Wayne Schunat, a local artist in Lakeland. “I have sold maybe two paintings, the entire year.”

Usually, Schunat sells two paintings every month.

Wayne Schunat painting

“People just don’t have it. They just don’t have the funds and art is usually the last thing that they’ll purchase. They need their necessities, the food, the transportation,” he said.

“The artists are struggling very heavily because they can’t get their art into the public and haven’t been able to do that since February when all of the lockdown started to take place,” said Bill Leggett, treasurer, Lakeland Art Guild.

Dozens of art shows and fundraisers have been canceled this year in Lakeland because of social distancing guidelines.

“We really want folks to remember that the arts are a big part of the economy and we definitely want them to come out and support,” said Julie Townsend, executive director, Lakeland Downtown Development Authority.

Banners are flying on downtown light poles painted by local artists advertising the upcoming “Art & Wine Walk.”

“They are truly works of art so of course we are going to auction them off the night of the event to help raise money for the art guilds,” said Townsend.

A $25 ticket pays for wine and food at local establishments. Art will be available to view and purchase along the way.

You can purchase tickets here. All proceeds go to the Lakeland and Bartow Art Guilds.