In Resources on the Arts (scratch)

COVID-19 Audience Outlook Monitor – Ontario

September 9, 20209 September 2020

Arts attendance and COVID-19

Ontario Arts Council



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This report summarizes 11,295 survey responses collected in mid-June via the mailing lists of 83 Ontario-based arts organizations that received operating support from the Ontario Arts Council. As is the case for all surveys where people self-select whether to respond, there is uncertainty as to whether the responses provide a representative sample of all attendees at the 83 arts organizations.

In the long term, the vast majority of respondents indicate that they plan to attend arts events at least as much as they did before the pandemic (86% saying more frequently or as frequently as before).

Until that time, however, there are a range of perspectives on returning to arts events. As of mid-June, comfort levels varied substantially by type of arts facility (in each case “assuming they were open and following social distance guidelines and other health safety procedures”):

  • 81% of respondents were comfortable “walking around a museum or gallery” (28% “very comfortable” and 53% “somewhat comfortable”)
  • 70% were comfortable attending a community arts space or studio (19% very and 51% somewhat)
  • 62% were comfortable attending an outdoor festival or concert (19% very and 43% somewhat)
  • 40% were comfortable attending a large theatre or concert hall (10% very and 30% somewhat)
  • 24% were comfortable attending a comedy club or live music venue (6% very and 18% somewhat)
  • 19% were comfortable “using hands-on exhibits at an interactive museum” (4% very and 15% somewhat)

The smaller the venue, the more likely that respondents would feel safe attending: “65% would feel at least somewhat comfortable in venue seating up to 50 people, but less than half would be comfortable in a venue seating 100, and just 23% would feel somewhat or very comfortable in a venue seating 1000.”

Regarding the timing of returning to arts events:

  • ​“17% of respondents are ready to return to cultural events as soon as it is legally allowed
  • 31% of respondents are waiting for the rate of new infections to drop to near zero
  • 42% of respondents are waiting for broad availability of testing and treatment, vaccination, or immunity”

The survey probed respondents’ perceptions of “steps to reduce health risks” that might “encourage or discourage visiting arts and cultural facilities once again”:

  • 84% would be encouraged by daily disinfecting of public areas
  • 83% would be encouraged by the enforcement of current distancing guidelines
  • 83% would also be encouraged by venues seating patrons apart
  • 78% would be encouraged by assurances that visitors would not have to touch surfaces
  • 78% would also be encouraged by a requirement to use face masks
  • 64% would be encouraged by “cash-less, no touch transactions”
  • 55% would be encouraged by venues taking attendees’ temperatures upon entrance

The report indicates that “some measures will be read quite differently by different audience segments”. For example, among those who expect to return to arts events as soon as they are permitted to resume, 53% say that they would be encouraged by a face mask requirement, but another 25% say that they would be discouraged by this safety measure.

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