Arts Groups And Their Neighbors Devastated By Shutdowns

The coronavirus has had a devastating economic impact on America’s arts sector. Since the first U.S. case was reported on Jan. 20, 2020, cancellations and closings have been reported at thousands of arts organizations across the country with a $4.5 billion loss to the bottom lines and total impact of $10.7 billion.

Americans for the Arts created a COVID-19 impact survey to measure the financial and human impacts that the spread of the coronavirus has had on the arts since that date using three impact categories: Loss of admissions revenue (ticket sales, subscriptions, memberships); Loss of non-admissions income (gift shop sales, sponsorships, contributed income); and, Unexpected new expenditures (new cleaning and disinfecting protocols, adoption of new technologies, cancellation fees).

The survey opened March 13 and has received responses from more than 11,500 artists, arts organizations, and arts agencies of all types, genres, sizes, and tax statuses. The vast majority of the respondents are nonprofit arts organizations (75 percent).

Nationally, financial losses to the nonprofit arts sector are estimated to be $4.5 billion as of April 6 (up from $3.2 billion on March 20). Additional findings include the following:

  • 94 percent have cancelled events
  • 29 percent have used financial reserves
  • 34 percent have reduced creative workforce (artists)
  • 23 percent have reduced staff — 43 percent report that it is “likely” they will reduce staff (28 percent say “extremely likely”)
  • 24 percent have reduced salaries/payroll
  • 69 percent expect this crisis to have a “severe” impact on their organization (36 percent expect an “extremely severe” impact).
  • 47 percent have increased their online presence (e.g., live streaming of events, museum collection freely available online)

Americans for the Arts estimates that nonprofit arts organizations already have experienced an estimated 197 million lost event admissions due to cancelled or postponed events. Findings from the Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 study demonstrate how the typical attendee spends $31.47 per person, per event, not including the cost of admission on items such as meals, parking, and retail. This means that local merchants have missed out on $6.2 billion in event-related spending by arts audiences due to these 197 million missed attendance opportunities.

Taken together, this $10.7 billion in total financial losses ($4.5 billion by nonprofit arts organizations and $6.2 billion in event-related spending by their audiences) has resulted in $1.8 billion in lost revenue to federal, state, and local governments, as well as 304,000 jobs no longer being supported.

The COVID-19 Impact on the Arts Survey is ongoing and arts organizations are encouraged to re-take the five-minute survey every three to four weeks to accurately capture the growing impact of coronavirus on their organization. The five-minute survey is available to take online and results can be tracked using this interactive online dashboard.