The Cultural Coalition of Allentown (CCA) today announced the results of the Lehigh Valley Arts & Culture Covid-19 Relief Fund Phase 2 Survey. The findings are dire. The Lehigh Valley’s artistic and cultural community is unquestionably in economic crisis due to the pandemic. In response, CCA launched a fundraiser at lvarts.org to address the immediate urgent needs for arts organizations and individual artists.
CCA conducted a Covid-19 Initial Impact Survey in April—within a few weeks of the statewide shutdown—establishing a benchmark on the immediate impact of the pandemic. A more- detailed second phase survey followed, May 11–15.
In total, more than 200 individuals and 50 arts and cultural organizations from throughout the region and representing a wide range of fields completed surveys. Results show that the arts and culture sector, which previous research estimated has an impact of $185 million annually on the region’s economy, is now bracing to lose up to two-thirds of its activity and revenue.
According to the data, nearly all (97%) of artists had work canceled due to the crisis, with nearly 70% of those who rely on non-arts related jobs losing income. With the collapse of outlets for their work, Lehigh Valley artists, on average in the Phase 2 survey, reported they expect to lose $20,000 and 56% report their annual income will be cut by at least half. Even more grim, nearly one-third of artists expect to lose more than 75 cents of every dollar they would usually earn for the year. Particularly hard hit are women artists. Already paid less than their male counterparts, women artists in the Lehigh Valley are more than 50 percent more likely to report the biggest income losses.
As a result, insecurities among Lehigh Valley Artist in paying for even the most basic needs rose in May, compared to April. More than half are finding acquiring supplies a challenge. Especially troubling, more than two in five Lehigh Valley artists surveyed now report trouble paying for housing and food.Similarly, dire, the finances of arts and cultural organizations are rapidly deteriorating. Indeed, the crisis appears to be literarily an existential one for a significant share of the most beloved non-profits. Fully 100% of the organizations had to canceled events in the previous 30 days.
Looking forward, on average Lehigh Valley arts and culture organizations project they will lose nearly two-thirds of their audience and more than half of their annual revenues. Yet the region’s non-profits are ill-prepared to weather the crisis much longer. By May, fewer than 2 in 5 had rainy day funds with more than half the funds remaining. Only 1 in 6 had funds designed to last more than 3 months.
For employees of these arts and culture organizations the reality is already poor, and the outlook getting worse. Nearly four in five organizations have reported staff layoffs or furloughs, with nearly 60% of paid staff being laid off. Moreover, two-thirds of organizations have made or are planning to make salary reductions for remaining staff.
Many of these future salary or staff reductions will occur when CARES-Act funding runs out. Yet only slightly more than half of surveyed organizations had received any CARES-Act funding. And that funding averaged only about 6% of usual annual operating budgets, small compared to the anticipated drastic revenue loses.
The impact will be felt not just by artists and the employees of these institutions but also via reduced overall quality of life in the region. The survey estimates suggest losses could amount to $100–150 million in direct economic benefits that the local economy would have received from arts and culture activities and related tourism and educational support.
Supporters of arts and culture institutions in the Lehigh Valley can assist in addressing these catastrophic losses with a contribution to the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation’s LehighValley Arts & Culture Relief Fund. Contributions of emergency funds for individual artists made via the GoFundMe campaign at lvartsfund.org.