Survey Shows Estimated US$4.5 Billion Losses on America’s Arts Sector So Far Due to the Coronavirus Pandemic

The coronavirus outbreak has brought a profound impact on the global economy, hitting many sectors hard. The arts sector is also suffering from the devastating economic impact with cancellations and closings. A recent survey conducted by Americans for the Arts, a leading nonprofit organisation for advancing the arts in America, shows that financial losses to the nonprofit arts sector in the United States are estimated to be US$4.5 billion.

A survey shows that financial losses to the nonprofit arts sector in the United States are estimated to be US$4.5 billion.

The survey opened on 13 March and as of 6 April has received responses from more than 11,500 artists, arts organisations, and arts agencies of all types, genres, sizes, and tax statuses. Here are some of the findings:

  • Organisations which have responded|11,004
  • Nonprofit arts organisations out of all respondents|About 8,250 (75%)
  • Total financial loss|US$119,943,020 (average of US$10,900 per organisation)
  • Total unanticipated expenses|US$6,922,458
  • Percentage of organisations that cancelled events |94%
  • Number of lost audience members|55,188,127 (average of 58,524 people per organisation)

The survey also found that 23% of the respondents have reduced staff while 43% reported that it is 'likely' they will reduce staff.

The Met advocates US$4 billion in federal funds to help nonprofit museums during the COVID-19 pandemic

Major art museums across the United States are temporarily closed due to the pandemic. The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced the launch of #CongressSaveCulture, calling for federal relief funds of US$4 billion for nonprofit institutions that are financially at-risk. The Met announced its temporary closure on 12 March and said it will likely remain closed until July, with leaders expecting a budget shortfall of as much as $100 million. On the other hand, The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has terminated all contracts with its freelance educators.

The same struggle can also be seen on the business side of the art sector. Sotheby’s has announced it will make redundancies, staff furloughs and pay cuts for employees in response to the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. lawyer Nicholas M. O’Donnell, who specialises in cases related to art dealing, warns the art world about a wave of bankruptcies in the upcoming months to years. For details, please read U.S Lawyer Warns That COVID-19 Might Cause a Bankruptcy Wave in the Art World.

Randy Cohen, vice president of research at Americans for the Arts

Randy Cohen, vice president of research at Americans for the Arts, remains optimistic about the future of the arts. ‘Getting people out of their houses and spending money again will be key to jump-starting the economy. This is what the arts do- they get us out of the house and create social and economic opportunities- attending a festival, going to a museum exhibit, attending the theatre,’ said Cohen.

He also pointed out that 72% of Americans believe ‘the arts unify their communities regardless of age, race, and ethnicity’ and 81% of the population says the arts are a "positive experience in a troubled world".