The COVID-19 pandemic has changed us all dramatically. Many of us mourn the loss of loved ones; others suffer or suffered from the virus and its impact; too many of us have lost jobs and livelihood. We’ve all experienced the months of shutdown, social distancing, mask wearing and some fear and trepidation. It’s also clear that most of us have turned to arts and culture—primarily through various screens and streams—to find comfort, solace, learning, joy and, yes, laughter, in a difficult time. More than ever before in memory, people have turned to the power of the arts to bring some meaning. As many have said, “Supporting artists and culture in this time is not a luxury—it’s an essential.”
But beyond COVID-19, arts and culture have long had an important impact in Massachusetts and the U.S. Did you know that before the pandemic:
- Arts is one of the three top economic drivers in Massachusetts
- In Massachusetts, every dollar spent by an arts and culture organization generates $2.30 in sales for nearby businesses
- Arts nonprofits supported nearly 73,000 full-time jobs in the state and generated more than $2.3 billion in total spending, and brought in nearly $100 million in state tax revenues (nationally, production of arts and cultural goods added $877.8 billion to the U.S. economy in 2017)
- More than 21 million people attended arts and cultural events in Greater Boston in 2018—four times the number that attended all major Boston sports events
- Cultural organizations offered more than 49,000 public events each year, an average of 137 a day; three out of four Massachusetts residents participated in at least one cultural event a month
- 535,000 children in Greater Boston were served by arts organizations in schools (nationally, students engaged in arts learning have higher GPAs, standardized test scores and college-going rates, as well as lower drop-out rates)
But since the COVID-19 pandemic struck and arts and cultural organizations have not been able to present their planned events and performances:
- According to the Mass Cultural Council (MCC), Massachusetts cultural nonprofits have lost $425 million through mid-July due to the COVID-19 crisis (in the first week of closings alone, the commonwealth’s nonprofit cultural organizations reported a loss of more than $55.7 million in revenue)
- There is the potential loss of over 8,000 jobs in the arts sector due to canceled events, shows, performances and exhibits; layoffs, furloughs and reduced pay and hours will impact 17,020 cultural employees across the state
- In an MCC survey over the same period, individual artists and independent teaching artists/humanists/scientists reported a total of more than $2.89 million in lost personal income
- Nationally, Americans for the Arts, an advocacy organization, stated that financial losses to nonprofit arts and cultural organizations are an estimated $5.5 billion as of May 18, 2020
Artists and arts and culture workers are reeling from the impact. Yet many, like JArts, have worked to continue, bringing arts events, videos, movies, readings and visual arts to wider and wider audiences through the internet and other means. The JArts JLive program that presents free live-streamed events weekly in visual arts, music and food reached audiences of nearly 7,000 people in June and July alone. We’ve been able to do this through the generosity of donors and supporters, federal funding for payroll, budget tightening and collaboration. We will continue with expanded virtual programming for our fall season.
If the arts have touched you in this time—if you’ve enjoyed a play, a movie, a musical event, an author reading, a virtual gallery tour, dance or more—you know that arts and culture is not a luxury but an important part of our well-being, our mental, spiritual and physical health. Arts are essential. Please support the organizations that bring the arts to you.
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