Non-profit sponsors study on how the pandemic impacted arts and culture in Puget Sound

On Jan. 19, the non-profit organization ArtsFund released a COVID Cultural Impact Study, an expansive effort to analyze the pandemic’s impact on Washington’s cultural institutions and their role in the state’s communities which ArtsFund believes is “essential.”

Arts and cultural venues were among the first to close when COVID hit in March 2020 and often remained the last to re-open, if at all. Utilizing data from both cultural organizations and Washington residents, the COVID Cultural Impact Study analyzed the depth of the challenges the pandemic has created for Washington’s art and culture sector and illuminates the support necessary to revitalize these integral institutions.

“COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way that we interact with each other and arts and culture have been a substantial part of what is seeing our communities through this change,” explained Michael Greer, ArtsFund President and CEO. “We recognize we are not at the tail-end of the pandemic–we are at the beginning of a structural transformation. As our sector continues to provide economic, social, and emotional support for our communities, this study offers both the qualitative and quantitative evidence needed for arts organizations to advocate for support and plan for the future.”

According to ArtsFund, the COVID Cultural Impact Study, funded by Bank of America, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and the Nesholm Family Foundation, underscores how critical arts and culture organizations are to Washington’s continued economic and community recovery and highlights the pivotal opportunity to transform how Washington invests in the future. Key findings include:

Across 121 reporting arts & culture organizations there was a $95.9 million, or 21 percent, decrease in overall revenue and $68.5 million, 20 percent, reduction in operating budgets in 2020 alone.

According to the study, the cultural workforce has been significantly impacted, prompting concern for a “cultural brain drain” with 41 percent of organizations having furloughed staff or reduced hours or pay.

While over 70 percent of cultural organizations are open in some capacity, public participation declined significantly during COVID and the constantly changing nature of the pandemic means many have not returned to in-person events. Cultural participants are expected to spend about half of what they spent pre-pandemic on cultural programming, impacting related industries including food, lodging, and retail, among others.

Cultural participants resoundingly agree, at 93 percent, that the role of art and cultural organizations will be important to Washington’s post-pandemic recovery. Forty-eight percent of cultural participants have placed more value on cultural programming since March 2020.

ArtsFund said in a written statements that as organizations look to rebuild for the future, they believe study reveals the immediate need to expand and sustain public support for these organizations, center the cultural sector in economic development, protect the cultural workforce, increase the focus on equity in participation, and find innovative ways to help organizations adapt to future needs and challenges.

ArtsFund is hosting a Community Conversation featuring cultural organizations from across the state to further discuss the COVID Cultural Impact Study on January 20, 2022. Registration is free and open to the public.

The COVID Cultural Impact Study is authored by BERK Consulting with research collaboration by GMA Research and Dr. William Beyers, University of Washington.

The full results of the COVID Cultural Impact Study can be found at ArtsFund.org/CCIS.

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