Power of Culture Blog
New Data Touts Economic Impact of Arts & Cultural Sector
The overall national arts economy in 2021 represented 4.4 percent of GDP—a new high-water mark
1,084 cultural organizations report $781M in lost revenue, 3,048 creative individuals cite $31.9M in lost income
In March 2021, one year into the pandemic, Mass Cultural Council shared data defining a cultural sector in economic crisis. Today, more than two years after COVID-19 first affected every facet of life in the Commonwealth, Mass Cultural Council releases new economic impact data collected from Massachusetts artists, cultural sector workers, and cultural organizations.
This is the sixth COVID economic impact survey of the cultural sector hosted by Mass Cultural Council since the pandemic forced gathering limits, closures, and cancellations across Massachusetts in March 2020. The data reported today represents a cumulative total for every respondent of each prior survey since March 2020: 1,084 cultural organizations and 3,048 artists and cultural sector workers.
“Mass Cultural Council’s charge is to bolster the Commonwealth’s cultural sector,” said Michael J. Bobbitt, Executive Director, Mass Cultural Council. “Massachusetts’ artists, sector employees, creative individuals, and organizations have been doing their best to hang on, and we are hopeful that this spring and summer the public will enthusiastically and safely reengage with them. This survey reports devastating losses – but there is hope. In the coming fiscal year, Mass Cultural Council anticipates administering a historic level of state funding in grants supporting arts and culture in every community. Together, our creativity, passion, and perseverance will help the cultural sector to vibrantly thrive once again.”
A total of 282 cultural organizations located across Massachusetts responded to the sixth impact survey, which sought information on the period between March 1, 2021 to February 28, 2022. These organizations reported $192,576,951 in lost revenue during that period. Significantly, ninety (90) percent – $172,535,608 – of these losses stem from earned revenue that never materialized.
“It’s clear that while cultural organizations have reopened, audiences have yet to return in large enough numbers for the hosts to rely upon earned revenue to support their work or achieve revenue goals,” said Bobbitt. “Mass Cultural Council’s grant programs and services offer relief and assistance, but the need is always greater than our available resources.”
These organizations also identified almost $20 million ($19,299,389) in costs experienced over the past year that were necessary to reopen, remain open, or attract patrons. These costs, which include capital expenses like HVAC improvements, air purifiers, and seating changes; and non-capital expenses, such as cleaning and sanitation, signage, supplies; and staff training, are ongoing items organizations must now budget for.
Fifty-one (51) percent of survey respondents with employees reported that they laid off, furloughed, or reduced the hours and/or wages of their employees in the past year – impacting 3,504 cultural sector employees.
Cumulatively, throughout Mass Cultural Council’s six COVID economic impact surveys issued between March 2020 and March 2022, 1,084 cultural organizations reported a total of $781,026,030 in lost revenue and 33,513 impacted jobs.
A total of 129 individuals (artists, teaching artists/humanists/scientists, and cultural sector workers) living and working in Massachusetts responded to the sixth COVID economic impact survey for individuals, which sought data for the period of March 1, 2021 to February 28, 2022.
These creative individuals report a total of 6,118 lost or cancelled gigs/jobs over the past year, resulting in a loss of $1,514,384 in personal income.
Cumulatively, throughout Mass Cultural Council’s six COVID economic impact surveys, issued between March 2020 and March 2022, 3,048 creative individuals reported 74,152 lost or cancelled gigs/jobs and almost $32 million ($31,938,000) in lost personal income. This represents an average loss of 24 gigs/jobs and $10,478 per person in the past two years.
“While Mass Cultural Council is proud to have doubled its grant-making budget for artists this year, clearly there is need for additional investment,” said Bobbitt. “My goal is to provide even more grants to artists and cultural sector workers in the next fiscal year, and I hope our available funding will support this endeavor.”
As a state agency, Mass Cultural Council is primarily funded through a line-item (0640-0300) in the annual state operating budget. While state law has established stand-alone grant programs funded by other means, such as the Cultural Facilities Fund and the Gaming Mitigation Program, it is the annual state budget that provides the Commonwealth’s main financial support for the cultural sector each year.
In the current fiscal year (FY22), Mass Cultural Council received $21,375,000 in state funding, the largest state appropriation since the 1980s. The Agency invested eighty-four (84) percent of this funding – $18 million – into more than 1,500 grant awards made in every city and town in the Commonwealth.
The Massachusetts cultural sector may receive a record level of state funding in FY23, which begins on July 1.
The Governor’s FY23 budget recommended funding Mass Cultural Council at $20.4M – significant, as this is the highest funding proposed by a Baker-Polito Administration budget; while the House Committee on Ways & Means proposed funding the Agency with $22.5M.
Legislators on Beacon Hill are now working to draft the FY23 budget, and the state House of Representatives will convene in budget debate this week. One item for consideration is Amendment #1081, filed by State Representative Dylan Fernandes (D-Falmouth) and co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of 70 House Members, 44.9% of the Chamber, seeking to increase Mass Cultural Council’s appropriation to $27.4 million, a record-high funding level last seen 34 years ago, in 1988.
Mass Cultural Council is also charged with granting $60.1 million in one-time state pandemic recovery funds to artists and cultural organizations. Draft program guidelines are expected to go to the Agency’s governing Council for approval in May; applications will launch soon thereafter.
“Mass Cultural Council is deeply appreciative of our partners on Beacon Hill for their continued investments supporting the cultural sector’s ongoing COVID recovery,” said Bobbitt. “We know when the cultural sector is thriving, the Commonwealth’s people, communities, and economy benefit as well.”