New study highlights devastating effect pandemic has had on Washington arts

Jan 19, 2022, 2:28 PM | Updated: Jan 20, 2022, 7:22 am
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Seattle's Paramount Theater in May 2021. (Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Karen Ducey/Getty Images)

A new study shows just how devastating the COVID pandemic has been to arts and culture groups in Washington state.

Seattle arts learning to adjust in the age of the pandemic

The study comes from nonprofit advocacy and support group ArtsFund, breaking down the “depth of the challenges the pandemic has created for Washington’s art and culture sector.” It drew from surveys distributed to nonprofit arts and science organizations across Washington, a survey of adults who made use of cultural programs since March 2020, and a separate poll representing the larger state population.

Through all that, it found that arts and culture organizations have reported massive losses in recent years, driven largely by the effect of the pandemic.

“One hundred and twenty one organizations that participated in this study saw a 21% decline in revenue, a loss of $95.9 million in revenue in 2019 and 2020 alone,” ArtsFund President Michael Greer told KIRO Newsradio. “This has led to hundreds of millions of dollars that has left the sector and our communities in the forms of jobs, educational opportunities, and local business support.”

Greer believes it will take years for the industry to recover, with more than half of those surveyed saying that the earliest they’d return to attending events would be in the spring of 2022 or later. Those same respondents also indicated that they’d likely still attend fewer events and spend less money on them.

Moving forward, he says the arts sector will need to undergo significant changes.

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“We are not at the tail-end of a pandemic — instead, we are the beginning of a structural transformation,” he described. “… With COVID-19, our future was delivered to us overnight, but that does not mean we can change overnight. The process of adapting to and normalizing these changes will take time.”

The study released by ArtsFund makes a handful of suggestions to that end, recommending that organizations “reimagine the role of arts and culture,” advocate for legislative solutions that provide “sustainable funding for the cultural sectors,” and increase wage stability in an equitable way.

“If we can learn from the past two years and make the necessary changes, this transformation will see our sector become more diverse, more accessible, and more financially stable,” Greer posited.

You can read the full study from ArtsFund at this link.

KIRO Newsradio reporter Heather Bosch contributed to this story

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New study highlights devastating effect pandemic has had on Washington arts