PHILADELPHIA – The City of Philadelphia’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy (OACCE) has released the Philadelphia Artists and Arts Organizations Impact Survey findings on the financial impact of COVID-19 on local individual artists and arts organizations due to the restrictions placed on group gatherings nd business activity. OACCE invited local artists and arts organizations to complete the survey from March 25 to April 10 in order to estimate the anticipated impact of COVID-19 through April 30, 2020.

“The arts are a major part of Philadelphia’s national reputation, and the long-term economic recovery of the city of Philadelphia is linked to the recovery of Philadelphia’s cultural community,” said Kelly Lee, Chief Cultural Officer and Executive Director of OACCE. “This survey is different from the other COVID-19 health crisis surveys in that it focuses on the arts community, including individual artists and arts organizations in our city. The survey will provide a more complete understanding of the impact on the arts community to help OACCE and arts leaders advocate for additional resources for recovery at the state and federal levels.”

The survey received 1,104 responses. Out of those who responded, 741 or 67.1% are individual or independent artists 269 or 24.4% are authorized representatives of an arts and cultural organization, and 94 or 8.5% are an employee of an arts and cultural organization.

Authorized representatives of arts and culture organizations reported a total of 7,367 employees are being impacted by COVID-19 public health restrictions. The largest responses, 58.4%, were from small arts organizations reporting an operating budget of $250,000 or less.

The results of this survey reflect the experiences only of the organizations who opted in to respond. While the results provide important information that government does not otherwise have, it should not be interpreted as a complete economic impact analysis.

Surveyed Arts Organization Budget Size: 


The arts organizations estimate 2,257 event cancellations with a loss of 879,366 attendees. Total estimated financial loss is $43,076,501 through April 30, 2020. As of April 10, 44.8% of arts organizations cancelled or rescheduled programs and events, 15.1% cancelled fundraisers, and 16.1% reduced salaries or furloughed or reduced staff. Arts organizations’ financial losses of $43,076,501 are also due to refunding tickets and using financial reserves to pay expenses. “We expect that these numbers will be higher when we survey arts organizations again and they have the data to report actual impacts as opposed to estimates,” added Lee.

Impact of COVID-19 on Arts Organizations: 


Of the 847 responses from individual / independent artists and employees of arts and cultural organizations, respondents anticipate a total estimate of 12,786 days of work lost through April 30, 2020. Total estimated financial loss to individual / independent artists and employees of arts and cultural organizations from these days of lost work is $5,521,848.

According to one of the artists who completed the survey, “During the best of times, many artists are financially unstable. For example, many artists make most of their annual income through concentrated gigs and have to stretch that money throughout the year. Any minor disruption to this cycle can have devastating results for an individual artist.” This was supported in the survey when the majority of individual artists’ financial losses were due to cancellations of appearances at 37.1%. Additionally, 20.5% of individual artists reported a reduction of hours and the inability to access studio space or sell their work as contributing to their financial loss through April 30.

Impact of COVID-19 Public Health Restrictions on Individual Artists or Employees:


The total financial impact reported by arts organizations and individual artists, from when public gathering restrictions started through April 30, 2020, is estimated to be $48,598,349. “Although we anticipate the impact will be higher, this number is devastating. The majority of the survey responses are from small arts organizations with budgets under $250,000 and individual artists. A revenue loss of $2,000 or $5,000 to this part of Philadelphia’s arts sector is significant,” added Lee.

The Philadelphia Artists and Arts Organizations Impact Survey captured the estimated financial impact of the COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings and business activity and also asked the survey respondents to describe their needs or recommend solutions that could help get them through this crisis. The responses included mirroring other cities in establishing a relief fund, providing a list of crisis-related resources, developing resources to provide virtual programming, promoting artists’ and arts organizations’ virtual programs, creating a marketing plan to promote event attendance after restrictions are lifted, raising awareness through media stories, and advocating for the arts sector.

OACCE has already been able to address many of the suggestions that came from the survey. Through a collaborative effort with the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance and the Philadelphia Cultural Fund, the COVID-19 Arts Aid PHL Fund was launched with a generous donation by the William Penn Foundation. “Within the Fund’s first hour, 533 applications were received from individual artists and small arts organizations,” shared Lee. In addition to the Fund, on there is a growing list of more than 50 COVID-19 resources for the arts community, from genre- specific opportunities like WXPN’s Music Community Relief Fund to broad opportunities like the Pennsylvania Humanities Council Pop-up Grants.

OACCE intends to issue another survey in the coming weeks to update data with actual financial impacts instead of estimated numbers. The second survey will also begin to measure the impact of COVID-19 on audiences and their future intentions to participate in the arts and visits arts and cultural institutions.

About the Office of Arts, Culture & the Creative Economy  
The Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy (OACCE) closes the gap in access to the arts for all Philadelphians. Committed to an inclusive arts sector, OACCE provides free neighborhood cultural programming; connects Philadelphians to quality cultural experiences; and preserves the City’s public art assets across the city. For more information about the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, visit and follow @CreativePHL on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.