ANALYSIS: COVID-19’s Impacts on Arts and Culture

Connecting the Dots – #YesThisIsAnArtsStory Repost from Argonne National Laboratories

COVID-19 Weekly Outlook | Week of 04 January 2021

Lead Analysts: Greg Guibert & Iain Hyde


The arts are integral to the social, civic, and economic wellbeing and vitality of our nation. Arts participation in childhood and youth has been linked to positive academic and social and emotional outcomes later in life. (1, 2) There are also positive relationships between art-going and other social and civic activities, such as volunteering in communities. (3)

Economically, arts and culture contribute 4.5% of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), an amount larger than the share contributed by industries as diverse as construction, agriculture, and transportation. Increasingly, the arts and design are used in healthcare, manufacturing, and local community and economic development initiatives. Therefore, the sector’s acute vulnerability during the pandemic has potential repercussions for other segments of the U.S. economy—many of which rely on creative and cultural workers and industries—and society as a whole.

Arts and culture have experienced significant economic setbacks from COVID-19. Across the spectrum of artistic and creative endeavors, restrictions on gatherings, changes in consumer behavior (voluntary or otherwise), and severe unemployment have taken a devastating toll on the sector. The full scope and scale of the impact can be hard to discern, in part because of the size and diversity of the industries and occupations that constitute arts and culture.

This week’s analysis is the product of close collaboration between the National Endowment for the Arts, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and Argonne National Laboratory. It provides an initial overview of some of these impacts, with a particular focus on the performing arts. It also explores some of the adaptations and resources that are helping arts organizations and artists to survive financially during the pandemic.

1 Source: National Endowment for the Arts. The Arts in Early Childhood: Social and Emotional Benefits of Arts Participation. Accessed December 18, 2020.

2 Source: National Endowment for the Arts. The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth: Findings from Four Longitudinal Studies. Accessed December 18, 2020.

3 Source: National Endowment for the Arts. Art-Goers in Their Communities: Patterns of Civic and Social Engagement. Accessed December 18, 2020.

3 Calculations by the Office of Research & Analysis, National Endowment for the Arts, based on data from the ACPSA, produced jointly by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the National Endowment for the Arts and the Economic Census and County Business Patterns, both produced by the U.S. Census Bureau.