The Pandemic’s Impact on Artists and the Arts Ecosystem

Digital Feature by Peter Ciurczak
December 2020

Boston Indicators   (Boston)

Artists and arts institutions provide tremendous economic and cultural value, but even before the pandemic hit, many in Massachusetts struggled to make ends meet. In Boston, small and medium sized institutions tend to rely principally on ticket sales and private donations for revenue, receiving much less public funding than their peers in other U.S. cities. These funding constraints in Boston are similar in other municipalities across the state. Consequently, as venues shut down to control the spread of the coronavirus, revenue dried up quickly. In order to paint a picture of how our state’s arts community has fared throughout the pandemic, this brief explores impacts across three parts of the arts ecosystem:

  1. Impact on Artists – who have in many cases lost income both from their creative work and from non-creative service-sector work, suffering a double-hit to their financial well-being,
  2. Impact on Arts organizations – many of which have been forced to make hard decisions about who to retain and who to lay off, with Mass Cultural Council survey respondents alone reporting revenue losses of almost $500 million,
  3. Impact on Audiences – who, while eager to return to patronizing the arts, are still largely waiting for a vaccine before doing so.