U.S. Arts Organizations Have Already Lost $4.5 Billion During Coronavirus Crisis, Per Study

  • April 08, 2020 18:25

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Peace Terrace and view of Lake Merritt. Courtesy of the Oakland Museum of California.
Photo: Matthew Millman

The COVID-19 pandemic has cost U.S. arts and cultural organizations an estimated total of $4.5 billion since a survey began 3 weeks ago, according to data collected by Americans for the Arts.

Some 11,500 organizations have responded to the study so far and reported losses of a median $38,000 each. (The dashboard for the survey notes that the total calculations are based on 120,492 nonprofit arts and culture organizations in the U.S., on a rolling two-week basis.)

More than two-thirds rank the crisis as “severe” or “extremely severe” in impact on their organization.


Overall, 94 percent of those surveyed have canceled events. Over 55 million lost audience members are estimated. However, 46% report adding to their online presence with digital initiatives.

To date, 23 percent have reduced staff, and 43 percent say staff reductions are likely ahead. 

With thousands of nonprofit employees already subject to layoffs since March due to the health crisis and subsequent lockdowns, some nonprofits report having difficulty gaining access to the Paycheck Protection Program in the federal stimulus bill, reports The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

In an attempt to retain staff while saving costs, Oakland Museum of California announced Wednesday that it would reduce hours for 106 full-time staff members in order to keep on 44 part-time employees and avoid the layoffs being implemented at other San Francisco Bay Area cultural organizations, reported KQED. In addition to cutting programs through the end of the fiscal year, the museum will decrease executive pay, while continuing health care, sick pay and retirement contributions for staff.

“We’re trying to balance our values with the financial reality,” Lori Fogarty, director of OMCA, said in an interview on KQED. “I worry the inequity we see in society at large is mirrored in cultural organizations. We’re trying in our small way to mitigate that.”

Read more at Americans for the Arts

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