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Envisioning the future of arts and culture organizations

By Elizabeth Zevada
September 18, 2020

Candid’s Joey Guastella (on the left in a dark shirt, looking at the speaker) leads a panel discussion at Candid during Arts Month in 2019
Funding for Filmmakers panel during Arts Month in 2017. Left to right: Candids Joey Guastella, filmmaker Randall Dottin, and filmmaker Nikhil Melnechuk.

Reprinted from Candid Learning.

Will arts and culture organizations be able to adapt and survive the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic? There is no simple answer, though preliminary data can shed some light on the road ahead. As Candid’s New York Learning Center prepares for Arts Month programs for the 18th year this October, we wanted to get a sense of what arts and culture organizations were confronting. 

Candid recently did an analysis to answer the question, “How many nonprofits will shut their doors?” For the 31,485 U.S. arts, culture, and humanities organizations included in the analysis, it is estimated that nearly 2,300 of them will close due to COVID-19. Though this is a sizable number of organizations, this scenario planning does suggest that over 93 percent of arts and culture organizations have the potential resiliency to navigate this crisis. 

Yet, to remain afloat, many organizations have had to resort to furloughs, layoffs, and hiring freezes. An analysis by the Center for Civil Society Studies at Johns Hopkins University estimated that between February and May, 1.6 million nonprofit jobs were lost. A Brookings Institution study, focused on the U.S. creative economy, estimated that 2.7 million jobs were lost between April and July of this year, with 1.4 million specifically from the fine and performing arts. The Americans for the Arts reported 62 percent of respondents have become fully unemployed and 95 percent have experienced income loss in their COVID-19 Impact survey .

Arts and culture organizations have received some financial support during this crisis. Since late March, $1.8 billion in federal Paycheck Protection Program loans were administered to nonprofit arts organizations, though this does not meet the revenue losses experienced by these organizations due to COVID-19. Some 1.1 million jobs were saved temporarily with the $13.7 billion in forgivable loans received by the arts and creative industries.

At Candid’s New York Learning Center, we’ve been paying attention to what the landscape looks like for our local arts organizations as well. New York ranks as the 10th highest state to lose nonprofits per capita with over 1,800 additional organizations projected to close their doors specifically because of COVID-19. In March, the NYC COVID-19 Response & Impact Fund was launched, and small to mid-size nonprofits in New York City applied for grants and interest-free loans for rent, payroll, or operational costs for fulfilling their public service missions. Arts and culture organizations received 380 grants ranging from $5,000 to $250,000, and ten arts organizations received loans ranging from $100,00 to $3 million. 

Despite the daunting challenges that arts and culture organizations are currently facing, there is hope. A report from the Wallace Foundation and SMU DataArts shares that arts organizations were experiencing stagnant or declining attendance even before the pandemic arose. The report (based on 20 visual and performing arts organizations) demonstrated that high-performing organizations were able to navigate this health crisis successfully due to “strong leadership and a clear plan. 

At Candid, we believe that through research, collaboration, and training, we can help arts and culture organizations find the resources they need to navigate the months ahead. This is why, this October, we’d like to invite culture and arts organizations to join our New York Learning Center Arts Month programming. Throughout the month, we’ll be hosting events to share success stories, best practices, and insights from nonprofits organizations and grantmakers across the U.S. that are working specifically in the arts. We’re excited to make this virtual programming available to organizations across the country this year. We invite you to join us at one or all of the events that we will be hosting next month, which are listed below. Collectively, we’ll be able to come together and reflect on the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead for arts and culture organizations.

Arts Month events 

Reimagining Theatre and Performance During and After the Pandemic
Virtual panel | October 14, 11 a.m.–1 p.m. ET | Free

Find Funding, Resources, and Support for Individual Artists
Virtual panel | October 15, 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m. ET | Free

How Grantmakers in the Arts are Addressing Current Challenges
Webinar | October 21, 2–3:30 p.m. ET | Free

Communicating Your Arts Organization’s Impact to Engage Donors
Webinar | October 22, 2–3:30 p.m. ET | $25

Tags: Arts and culture; Candid