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Survey Shows Continued Staggering Impacts of COVID-19 on State’s Cultural Sector

Bethann Steiner, Public Affairs Director

Cultural Organizations Report $484M in Lost Revenue, Artists Cite $20M in Lost Revenue, More than 30K Cultural Jobs Impacted by Pandemic Since March

Me2 Orchestra at an indoor rehearsal

Massachusetts nonprofit and municipal cultural organizations report a staggering $483,519,270 in lost revenue since March, while the Commonwealth’s working creatives: individual artists, teaching artists, and scientist/humanists have lost $20,138,858 in personal income due to the pandemic in Mass Cultural Council’s most recent COVID-19 impact survey for the cultural sector.

Total Lost Revenue Reported by 898 Organizations (in millions)

“Seven months ago Mass Cultural Council determined it was imperative that we be well-informed and able to account for the financial impacts of COVID-related cancellations, closures, and reopening guidance policies on the cultural sector,” said David T. Slatery, Acting Executive Director, Mass Cultural Council. “The Agency has conducted several surveys since the pandemic hit Massachusetts this spring. Collecting and sharing this grim impact data with policymakers has supported our advocacy efforts and given meaning to the sector’s call to action, geared towards securing necessary COVID relief.”

From October 15-30, 2020 Mass Cultural Council collected financial and employment data from hundreds of nonprofit and municipal cultural organizations and individual artists, teaching artists, and humanists to articulate the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Commonwealth’s cultural sector. Responses to the Agency’s previous COVID impact surveys for cultural organizations (conducted in March, April, and June) and individual artists, teaching artists, and scientist/humanists (completed in March and April) have been added to these most recent survey results. The data reported today represents a cumulative total for every respondent of every survey.

Financial Impacts on Cultural Organizations

In total, 898 nonprofit and municipal cultural organizations have completed at least one of the Agency’s COVID impact surveys since March. These organizations, located in every region of the Commonwealth, have been financially devastated by the pandemic and report:

  • $379,482,304 in total lost earned revenue
  • $104,036,966 in total lost contributed revenue

In total, cultural organizations across the state have lost a staggering $483,519,270 in revenue due to COVID-related cancellations, closures, and related policies since March.

Region # of Organizations Total Lost Revenue
Greater Boston 293 $314,559,555
Central 91 $25,357,579
MetroWest 62 $17,321,567
Northeast 103 $27,580,694
Southeast 171 $43,586,695
Western 178 $55,113,180
Total 898 $483,519,270

On average, Massachusetts cultural organizations are dealing with the loss of $538,440 each. Difficult decisions have been made in order to contend with this new reality: 62% of the organizations have made the decision or plan to soon lay off, furlough, or reduce the hours and/or wages of their employees. Across Massachusetts, more than 30,000 cultural sector jobs – meaning 30,616 individual employees – have been impacted by COVID.

Region # of Organizations Total Jobs Impacted
Greater Boston 293 13,566
Central 91 1,905
MetroWest 62 2,234
Northeast 103 2,771
Southeast 171 4,605
Western 178 5,535
Total 898 30,616


Cultural organizations reported total reopening costs of more than $116.8M:

  • $10,510,484 in capital improvement costs necessary to reopen their facilities and reengage with the public safely
  • $106,336,590 to deploy non-capital COVID reopening strategies to reengage with the public

Cultural organizations identified various non-capital COVID reopening strategies, such as instituting operational changes (training and allowing staff to work remotely); constructing temporary protective barriers for staff and the public; providing dedicated equipment such as computers and phones for staff; providing hand sanitizer and/or hand washing stations; providing masks and/or other protective equipment; increasing facility cleaning services; hiring additional staff related to COVID recovery; shifting programming from indoor to outdoor or from in-person to virtual; reduce occupancy for programming; new health and safety signage and wayfinding; change or eliminate concessions; union contracts that must be renegotiated or amended; and other administrative and programmatic changes.

Financial Impacts on Individual Artists, Teaching Artists, and Scientist/Humanists

Massachusetts’ creative individuals are also facing dramatic financial loss from the pandemic. A total of 2,423 artists, teaching artists, and scientist/humanists from every region of the state responded to Mass Cultural Council’s three COVID impact surveys.

These individual practitioners report more than $20M in lost personal income ($20,138,858) and 39,693 cancelled gigs/jobs since March.

On average, an individual artist, teaching artist, or scientist/humanist in Massachusetts has lost $8,312 in personal income and 16 cancelled jobs/gigs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Region # of Individuals Reporting Total Lost Income Total Lost Gigs/Jobs
Greater Boston 910 $8,924,481 13,225
Central 211 $1,399,367 3,663
MetroWest 141 $1,150,341 2,377
Northeast 269 $2,010,651 4,524
Southeast 410 $3,204,627 7,628
Western 482 $3,449,391 8,276
Total 2,423 $20,138,858 39,693

“Organizations within Massachusetts’ cultural sector were among the first to voluntarily close and will be the last to fully reopen because of COVID,” said Slatery. “Mass Cultural Council will continue to collect and share impact data with policymakers in an effort to secure necessary recovery and relief assistance.”

Most of the state’s investment in arts and culture is made through the Mass Cultural Council in the annual state budget. This week the Massachusetts House of Representatives will begin its Fiscal Year 2021 budget debate. The House Committee on Ways & Means recommended level funding the Agency in FY21 with $18.2M. Additionally, Mass Cultural Council is working with the Baker/Polito Administration to design a new $10 million COVID relief grant program funded by federal CARES Act monies, which is anticipated to launch shortly. Lastly, cultural organizations with capital needs should consider applying for a 2021 Cultural Facilities Fund (CFF) grant. The CFF application deadline is January 15, 2021.

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