Arts Industry Survival Depends on Ohio’s CARES Act Funding

From Ohio Citizens for the Arts

Economic Impact Study Shows COVID-19 Devastated Ohio’s Arts and Culture

Columbus, Ohio, September 30, 2020 – A survey conducted this month by a statewide coalition of arts and culture organizations, coordinated by Ohio Citizens for the Arts, points to significant widespread financial losses and foreshadows additional layoffs and permanent closures.

The complexities of Ohio public health restrictions mandated on the sector, particularly the performing arts, prohibit most businesses statewide from reopening.

Karamu House Director of Operations and Community Engagement Aseelah Shareef, said, “Opening to in-person audiences creates increasing layers of financial hardship for Karamu House. The production and personnel costs are impossible to meet with a fifteen percent seating capacity – our largest theatre seats 200. Operating under such limited capacity would be an unsustainable revenue model and demonstrate poor financial stewardship.”

Key findings from September’s Ohio Arts and Culture Industry survey point to the crisis facing the sector, including:

  • For the fifth consecutive month, Ohio’s Arts and Culture Industry suffers from the highest unemployment rate, with one-third of the sector out of work. That is more than 80,000 jobs and an estimated $3.3B in accumulative economic loss. (April-August) *
  • Statewide, arts and culture organizations anticipate a 72% drop in earned revenue from FY2019 to FY2021. Total revenue projected to decline by 44% from FY2019 to FY2021.
  • Organizations surveyed anticipate a 15% reduction in personnel expenditures from FY2019 to FY2021, suggesting job losses in the sector will continue.
  • When asked how long their organizations would survive without additional support, over 60% of survey respondents said they would close within 12 months.
  • Almost 20% of survey respondents reported still being wholly closed to creators, staff, and the public.

While some arts and cultural organizations have shifted to all-digital programming, the survey shows that digital programming only works in some sector areas with little to no earned revenue opportunities.

“Lima Symphony Orchestra has been a community mainstay since our debut in 1953,” said Elizabeth Brown-Ellis, executive director, Lima Symphony Orchestra. “We’ve experienced a tremendous loss in revenue, which has impacted jobs and the community extensively. While we are working hard to provide excellent programming virtually, that won’t make up for revenues lost because of an empty theatre.”

“An investment from the state in our arts and culture industry is an investment in Ohio,” said Angela Meleca, executive director, Ohio Citizens for the Arts. “No business forced to close to the public for six months or more can to survive without relief aid. And all indications are that these businesses will not be able to reopen fully until well into 2021.”

Ohio Citizens for the Arts has requested critically needed funding from the Federal CARES Act allocated to the state. While some local and regional leaders have provided CARES relief for arts and cultural organizations, state leaders have yet to take action to protect this essential industry of Ohio’s economy.

“The economic impact relating to the arts has a ripple effect on retail, restaurants, tourism, and hospitality,” said Angela Meleca. “The interconnectedness of the sector and the depth of its scope across all parts of Ohio give arts and culture a unique ability to help jumpstart statewide economic recovery.”


If you would like more information, please contact Philip Kim, director of marketing and communications, Ohio Citizens for the Arts

*Brookings Institute; Lost art: Measuring COVID-19’s devastating impact on America’s creative economy. August 11, 2020

Ohio Citizens for the Arts is a member-driven, not-for-profit organization working to strengthen arts and culture in Ohio to benefit all citizens. We represent Ohio’s $41B Arts and Creative economy, which employs nearly 300,000 across the state. OCA’s mission is to advocate for increased funding and public support for Ohio’s arts and culture through advocacy, education, and engagement. Engaging both grassroots and grass-tops, OCA works closely with elected officials to convey the value and economic impact Ohio’s arts organizations, artists, and cultural institutions create for Ohioans.

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