Staggering New Data on COVID-19 Impacts for Arts & Cultural Orgs

From early March, ArtsFund has been surveying the art sector to better understand impacts of COVID-19 on the cultural sector’s operations, programming, and workforce. This crisis has had devastating impacts throughout our community—dramatically affecting work and life for each of us. While the mandated closures are essential for public health, they are having immediate and profound effects on our region’s arts nonprofits, artists, and cultural workers. Most recently, we collected data over a two week period in April from 90 organizations representing arts, culture, and science nonprofits. 

 The groups surveyed, predominately located in King County, represent organizations with budgets under $250K to over $5M and ranging from arts education groups to the zoo, with many more in between, yet the impacts are nearly universal. Here is what we learned.  


Projected loss of revenue for fiscal year 2020 is between $133,245,923 and $135,340,923. The range allows for low and high impact estimates, factoring in uncertainty about when and how organizations will be allowed to reopen. These estimates do not capture the losses that will carry over into next fiscal year.  


4,976 employees have been furloughed or laid off. This includes 638 full-time, 1508 part-time, and 2830 seasonal-and contractual-staff. This total does not capture hiring freezes that organizations implemented, many of whom hire additional seasonal or contractual employees for their high season. It also does not account for reduced pay, or reduced hours for employees who are still working. 


97% of our region’s arts, cultural and scientific nonprofits have had to cancel programs as a result of this crisis. These programs provide not only organizational revenue, they also play important roles in their communities. Organizations are concerned that programs serving historically marginalized communities are particularly at risk. 

Nonprofits also depend on fundraisers for critical contributed income, and 76% of cultural nonprofits have had to cancel their fundraisers as a result of the pandemic.  

Over half of all groups are experiencing challenges related to a decline in membership and subscriptions (56%), a loss of sponsorships (56%), and have faced challenges in facility upkeep (51%).  

 These findings underscore the critical need to provide near-term relief to enable arts and cultural organizations to maintain essential functions and retain core staff throughout the current public health crisis so that they are able to reopen when possible.  

Support the COVID-19 Arts Emergency Relief Fund.

Photo: courtesy of Seattle Theatre Group, photo by Nadia Quitslund.