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Culture and Community in a Time of Crisis

A Special Edition of CultureTrack, Key Findings from Wave 1

November 2, 20202 November 2020

Arts attendance and COVID-19

Slover Linett Audience Research and LaPlaca Cohen

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This report is predominantly based on a mid-May survey of over 122,000 Americans who are on the mailing lists of 653 arts and culture organizations, including 336 museums and collecting organizations, 285 performing arts organizations, and 32 organizations of other types (mostly “arts schools and services”). Participating organizations “had a median budget of US $5,000,000, a median staff size of 45 full-time employees, and a median audience size of 90,000 visitors or attenders per year”.

After examining the organizations’ lists, the researchers argue that “the cultural sector has an inclusion problem”: 85% of survey respondents, drawn from organizations’ mailing lists, are white, compared with 63% of American adults. The report recognizes that “the pandemic’s devastating impact leaves large segments exposed to COVID-19, out of work, and feeling disconnected and on edge. People of color are disproportionately experiencing the physical and financial brunt of the crisis.” Most of the report’s content was weighted to reflect the overall American population.

Among respondents, 53% indicate that they had participated in one or more digital cultural activities in the previous 30 days, including performances recorded pre-COVID, live streamed performances, online children’s activities, online classes or workshops, and podcasts. The report observes that “many respondents who are using online cultural offerings had not physically visited the same kinds of cultural organizations in the past year”. However, just 13% had paid for access to digital cultural content.

A majority of respondents (81%) reported doing something creative during the pandemic, most commonly cooking or baking (62%), with smaller proportions participating in arts activities such as singing (37%) and “making something by hand (quilting, pottery, woodwork, ceramics, knitting, metalwork, etc.)” (27%).

Looking ahead “to when people are able to go out again”, respondents are most excited to do non-cultural activities (up to 5 responses could be selected):

  • Get together with loved ones in our homes (70%)
  • Go out to a bar or restaurant (63%)
  • Visit a park, garden, or zoo (46%)
  • Go to the movies (37%)
  • Go to church, temple, mosque, etc. (32%)
  • Go to a concert or musical performance (29%)
  • See a play (nonmusical or musical) (11%)
  • Go to a history museum or historic site (10%)
  • Go to an art museum (9%)
  • Go to a science or natural history museum (7%)
  • Take an art, music, or dance class (6%)
  • Go to a children’s museum (5%)
  • See a dance performance (4%)

The report recommends that arts and culture organizations should “put safety first”, “lead with empathy”, and “build a digital bridge to the future”. The report also recommends that organizations “include the excluded”: “people today want and expect cultural organizations to play an active and inclusive role in their community, providing spaces for enjoyment, connection, and reflection.”

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