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On February 8, 2022, ArtsFund hosted Diving Deeper: How Nonprofits can Leverage the COVID Cultural Impact Study for the Cultural Partners Network. The event was an opportunity to convene with colleagues in the cultural sector to look closer at findings from the COVID Cultural Impact Study (CCIS) and to join in a discussion about how to use the report as a tool for planning, advocacy, and fundraising.

Sarah Sidman, ArtsFund, laid the framework for the event, noting that the sector is in the midst of a structural transformation and that the CCIS provides us with enough data to identify trends and can help inform future decisions. Jumping into that very data, Steffi Morrison, ArtsFund, shared out key findings from the report. Steffi covered revenue losses to organizations, cultural participants future spending projections, when cultural participants plan on returning in-person, workforce impacts, and the roles that cultural participants believe cultural organizations will play in their community’s recovery.

Having a foundation in the CCIS data, we welcomed Kate Becker, the Office of King County Executive Dow Constantine, to moderate a panel of arts and culture leaders Amy Chasanov, 5th Avenue Theatre; David Fischer, Tacoma Arts Live; and Nina Yarbrough, 4Culture; to discuss the implications of the data, highlight recommendations, and talk about how to use the information.

Kate kicked off the conversation by asking panelists how the sector can make long term changes to protect against  future shocks. David offered the need to stay nimble and use  data to inform pivots, but noted the toll that constant adaptation takes on an exhausted workforce. Nina discussed the necessity of intentionality and the importance of looking holistically at our environment so that the sector is aligned with current issues that impact society. Amy added that organizations must stay relevant to the broader community and believes a strategy for maintaining that relevancy is engaging with youth—as future creators and consumers of arts and culture.

“We have concrete data to support what we all know anecdotally. It’s very hard to ignore[ . . . ] that drop in revenue that organizations have experienced. And it’s equally hard to ignore the fact that so many organizations were able to make it through because of that infusion of public support. That is a concrete argument and a presentation of facts that are irrefutable.”
-Nina Yarbrough

Throughout the panel, there was in-depth discussion around the CCIS recommendations. In considering how we can pushforward to center equity, Nina shared  ideas on how to dismantle barriers and inequities around funding Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) identifying organizations. She suggested continued education and recognition of the historic inequities BIPOC organizations have faced, trust-based philanthropy, and unrestricted funding or operational support as being key strategies. Amy reiterated the need to advocate for public funding using an equitable lens to lower the barrier to entry. David talked about looking at equity internally within the organization, but also how organizations can deliver equity across their communities to engage in completely different ways.

“I’m hoping that this is the opportunity for all of us to rethink our case, to accelerate the pace of change so that we can meet the tastes, and the needs, and the format of the next generation. Because we can’t be looking in the rearview mirror. We can’t do what we’ve always done.”
– David Fischer

When discussing how to use the CCIS, the panelists all called out the need to work collectively as a sector to tell our stories to make the case for sustained public support. The cultural sector provides public value, as such, we need to work together to break through the cognitive dissonance around funding arts and culture. We can use the CCIS as an engagement tool to start conversations and concretely tell the story of why investing in the arts is more than just an economic investment, but also an investment in public good.

“I think that’s really part of our story: that we provide a public good that should have public resources attached.”
– Amy Chasanov

In remarks by CCIS author, Vivien Savath, BERK Consulting, she built on the need for sustained public support saying, “if you want regional economic recovery, start with arts and culture.” She went on to share some of her insights into the report and thoughts about where we can go from here looking at intersections across sectors, like healthcare and education.

Capping off the call for collective storytelling, we welcomed Manny Cawaling, Inspire Washington, to share out some strategies and tips for advocacy work. Manny suggested using the CCIS data as a foundation, as “it provides context and illustrates a big and broad story” but then to personalize it by telling “your cultural story, what’s happening in your organization, how it affects programs and your communities, your services, employees, that personalizes it.”

Michael Greer, President & CEO at ArtsFund, closed out the event, remarking that, “These findings speak to an essential nature of what all of you bring to our communities and the dedication that each of one of you have to bringing the benefit of arts and culture to all people.”

Thanks to all our panelists, participants, and event attendees.


Thanks to our Cultural Partners Network sponsor: 

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For more resources on the CCIS, please visit:

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