SMU DataArts - Cultural Data Profile


NYC Department of Cultural Affairs Releases Report on the Financial Impact of COVID-19 on the City's Cultural Sector

  • Posted Jun 30, 2020

The report incorporates 800+ survey responses and 10 years of financial data, and will help guide advocacy and relief efforts for the city’s cultural community.


NEW YORK (NYC DCLA) - Today, the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and SMU DataArts released a report examining the financial impact of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis on the city’s non-profit cultural sector. The report, based on survey responses collected from April 24 through May 8, 2020, was created in partnership with Americans for the Arts and SMU Data Arts. The findings outline major challenges facing the city’s arts and cultural organizations, and will help shape advocacy and relief efforts from both government and private philanthropy.


Key findings include:

  • Cultural groups with annual budgets under $250,000 were hardest hit. In three months, they incurred losses representing 20%-30% of annual revenue and incurred unanticipated expenses equivalent to about 20% of annual expenditures. Looking at groups by discipline, performing arts organizations and community-based organizations were the most severely impacted, with average losses of 18% and 12% of annual revenue, respectively.


  • Layoffs and furloughs affected 21% of the nonprofit cultural workforce, totaling over 15,000 across the sector. Artists employed by organizations were particularly hard hit; some of the greatest reductions to artist employment came from arts education organizations, which collectively reported decreases of over 2,100 artists, or 78% of artist staffing, during this period. There were also indications that the sector’s most diverse job categories, such as security and visitor services, were disproportionately affected by layoffs and furloughs.


  • 11% of survey respondents expressed doubt about ever reopening. Smaller organizations (budgets under $250,000) and performing arts organizations reported feeling the greatest likelihood of insolvency.


  • The full negative financial impact of revenue losses and unanticipated expenses reported by respondents totaled roughly $550,000,000.


  • Nearly 100% of responding organizations stated that in-person attendance has dropped, for an aggregate loss in attendance of 16,439,818 patrons. This represents 35% of annual attendance.


With the survey cutoff date of May 8, the crisis is likely to have exacerbated these impacts in recent weeks, as program cancellations continue to be announced and New York City has yet to reach the phase of reopening which includes arts and culture.


The survey contributes to a broader understanding of the extent of damage caused by the ongoing crisis. In particular, it provides a snapshot of the actual and projected financial impact of the earliest months of COVID-19 as cultural organizations quickly adapted to unprecedented challenges facing residents in every corner of the city. The pandemic continues to have deepening effects across the sector. DCLA will continue work with partners and constituents to understand the ongoing impacts on the cultural community - particularly those most affected by the public health crisis, financial crisis, and institutionalized racism - in order to advocate for and target support and investments where they are needed most.


Read the Report


The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) is dedicated to supporting and strengthening New York City’s vibrant cultural life. DCLA works to promote and advocate for quality arts programming and to articulate the contribution made by the cultural community to the City’s vitality. The Department represents and serves non-profit cultural organizations involved in the visual, literary, and performing arts; public-oriented science and humanities institutions including zoos, botanical gardens, and historic and preservation societies; and creative artists at all skill levels who live and work within the City’s five boroughs. DCLA also provides donated materials for arts programs offered by the public schools and cultural and social service groups, and commissions permanent works of public art at City-funded construction projects throughout the five boroughs. For more information, visit



Americans for the Arts is the leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education in America. With offices in Washington, D.C. and New York City, it has a record of 60 years of service. Americans for the Arts is dedicated to representing and serving local communities and creating opportunities for every American to participate in and appreciate all forms of the arts. Additional information is available at



SMU DataArts, the National Center for Arts Research, is a joint project of the Meadows School of the Arts and Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University. SMU DataArts compiles and analyzes data on arts organizations and their communities nationwide and develops reports on important issues in arts management and patronage. Its findings are available free of charge to arts leaders, funders, policymakers, researchers and the general public. The vision of SMU DataArts is to build a national culture of data-driven decision-making for those who want to see the arts and culture sector thrive. Its mission is to empower arts and cultural leaders with high-quality data and evidence-based resources and insights that help them to overcome challenges and increase impact. Publications include white papers on culturally specific arts organizations, the egalitarian nature of the arts in America, gender equity in art museum directorships, protecting organizations through downturns, and more. SMU DataArts also publishes reports on the health of the U.S. arts and cultural sector and the annual Arts Vibrancy Index, which highlights the 40 most arts-vibrant communities around the country.