Americans for the Arts COVID-19 Survey Documents Devastating Losses to the Arts


The coronavirus has had a devastating economic impact on America’s arts sector. Since the first U.S. case was reported on January 20, 2020, cancellations and closings have been reported at thousands of arts organizations across the country. In response, 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:

  1. Loss of admissions revenue (ticket sales, subscriptions, memberships)
  2. Loss of non-admissions income (gift shop sales, sponsorships, contributed income)
  3. Unexpected new expenditures (new cleaning and disinfecting protocols, adoption of new technologies, cancellation fees).

The survey opened March 13 and to date 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, however, are nonprofit arts organizations (75%).

Financial Impact of Coronavirus on the Arts Sector

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% have cancelled events
  • 29% have used financial reserves
  • 34% have reduced creative workforce (artists)
  • 23% have reduced staff—43% report that it is “likely” they will reduce staff (28% say “extremely likely”)
  • 24% have reduced salaries/payroll
  • 69% expect this crisis to have a “severe” impact on their organization (36% expect an “extremely severe” impact).
  • 47% 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.

Economic Impact of Financial Losses

Taken together, this $10.7 billion in total financial losses ($4.5 billion by nonprofit arts organizations + $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 5-minute survey every 3 to 4 weeks to accurately capture the growing impact of coronavirus on their organization. The 5-minute survey is available to take online and results can be tracked using this interactive online dashboard.





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