95% of US Artists Have Lost Income Due to Pandemic, Survey Says

Over 11,000 artists responded to a survey by the organizations Americans for the Arts and Artist Relief.

Nearly all of artists surveyed reported losing income as a result of the crisis (all graphs courtesy of Americans for the Arts and Artist Relief)

Artist Relief, the sweeping emergency aid initiative recently launched by seven arts funders, has completed its first funding cycle; with it, research partner Americans for the Arts has published the results of its accompanying COVID-19 Impact Survey, which measures the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on individual artists.

Since applications opened two weeks ago, more than 50,000 artists applied for 200 available unrestricted grants of $5,000 each. Of those applicants, over 11,000 also filled out Americans for the Arts’s survey, among them practicing, teaching, and hobby artists; creative workers; and culture bearers.

The findings paint a bleak picture of the cultural sector’s financial health: nearly two thirds of artists in the US are fully unemployed, and the majority see no clear path to recovery.

More than two thirds of respondents also reported incurring unanticipated expenses.

An overwhelming 95% of artists have lost income due to the crisis, with an average decline in estimated total annual income of $27,103. A further 66% of survey respondents said they cannot access the resources they need to continue their creative practice, including supplies, physical space, and social networks.

The most distressing data point, perhaps, is the fact that 80% of surveyed artists do not have a plan to get back on their feet. More than half of them reported having no savings.

“With a creative workforce that includes so many entrepreneurs, independent contractors, and gig workers, we knew that COVID-related closures were going to hit creatives hard, but these numbers are shocking,” said Clay Lord, Vice President of Strategic Impact at Americans for the Arts, in an email.

Nearly half of survey participants said they would apply for unemployment, and 71% said they would apply for relief in the form of grants.

“The fact that so many of them, even in this terrible circumstance, are still producing creative work for their communities — often without getting paid for it — is a testament to the generosity and necessity of artists. It is also, however, a sign that we need to change local, state, and federal policies to make sure that creative workers are better protected, better supported, and able to succeed as the creative backbone of this country,” he added.

The COVID-19 Impact Survey will remain open through the crisis. The organization hopes to use the findings to advocate for increased support for the cultural sector from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the $2 trillion stimulus bill passed by Congress that largely left the arts by the wayside.

49% of artists who also work or worked non-creative jobs said they have been laid off or furloughed.

Artist Relief was founded by the Academy of American Poets, Artadia, Creative Capital, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, MAP Fund, National YoungArts Foundation, and United States Artists with an initial $5 million in seed funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Other organizations, such as the Ford Foundation and the Warhol Foundation, stepped up to match Mellon’s contribution for a total of $10 million in raised funds.

The coalition has raised an additional $1.1 million in donations in the past 15 days and launched its Field Partner program, which aims to provide aid to specific areas of the arts. The Sundance Institute joined last week as Artist Relief’s first partner, committing to providing support to film artists.

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