As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage, so does its devastation of the nation’s arts sector. Since the first U.S. case was reported in January 2020, cancellations have taken place at virtually every arts organization across the country, artists are among the most severely affected segment of the nation’s workforce, and 1 in 10 nonprofit arts organizations doubt their ability to survive the pandemic. It has been unquestionably brutal for the arts. When we get to the other side of the pandemic, however, I believe the arts will be among our greatest assets in helping the nation to recover.

Financial Losses to the Arts & Creative Economy

The arts are a larger segment of the economy than most people realize. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that the nation’s arts and culture sector—nonprofit, commercial, education—is an $878 billion industry that supports 5.1 million jobs. That is 4.5% of the nation’s economy—a larger share of GDP than powerhouse sectors such as agriculture, transportation, and tourism. The arts even boast a $30 billion international trade surplus.

How have things changed since the pandemic? A recent Brookings Institution report shows America’s arts and creative industries lost $150 billion in sales and 2.7 million jobs through July. The “fine and performing arts” alone (commercial and nonprofit) incurred losses of $42.5 billion and a whopping 50% of its workforce (-1.4 million jobs).

Nonprofit Arts Sector is Struggling to Reopen & Compete

Americans for the Arts has been surveying nonprofit arts and cultural organizations about the pandemic’s human and financial impacts since early March (19,800 organizational responses). Nonprofit arts organizations have lost an estimated $14.6 billion to date. 99% of producing and presenting organizations have cancelled events—a loss of 481 million admissions. (The nation’s museums alone were losing $33 million per day at the beginning of the pandemic, per the American Alliance of Museums.)

Impact on Artists & Creative Workers

Since April, Americans for the Arts has partnered with Artist Relief to survey individual artists and creative workers about the impact of the pandemic (27,000 artist respondents to date). 95% report loss of income, 63% have become fully unemployed, and artists expect to lose an average of $22,000 each in creativity-based income in 2020 ($50.6 billion, nationally).

Read the full article about COVID's impact on the arts by Randy Cohen at Americans for the Arts.