Leah Horn

WESTAF Releases COVID-19 Arts Impact Survey Results

Survey data inform future COVID-19 relief efforts for the arts and culture sector in the West

DENVER, CO, June 1, 2020—The Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF), a nonprofit arts service organization and leading provider of technology solutions for the arts, has released a report detailing the results of its survey on the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the creative sector in the western region. The creative economy is a vital industry sector across the West generating $196.2 billion in industry earnings and supporting 1,388,864 jobs, according to WESTAF Creative Vitality™ Suite data.

Launched on March 26, WESTAF’s COVID-19 Arts Impact Survey offers information on the impact of the pandemic on the creative economy in the West, which includes the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawai‘i, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. The survey, which closed on May 1, engaged 783 artists, arts nonprofits, creative businesses, and government agencies in the West. Initial findings of the survey were shared with WESTAF’s network of state arts agency and state arts advocacy leaders and with private foundations and other grantmakers considering making investments in COVID-19 responses for the arts.

“The results of the survey show that artists, arts nonprofits, and creative businesses (like design firms, galleries, and photography studios) are facing significant financial challenges from the COVID crisis with limited levels of savings or reserves,” says Director of Public Policy David Holland. “It is encouraging to see that arts nonprofits and creative businesses are by-and-large protecting jobs and that a number of arts-specific relief funds are being developed to meet the needs of artists and organizations. Sustained support will be needed to help the sector remain resilient in these unprecedented times.”

The following headline statistics from the final survey results illustrate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the creative economy in the West:


Respondents that reported reductions in income/revenue

  • Artists: 91%; Arts nonprofits: 92%; Creative businesses: 96%
Respondents that reported cancellation of paid events

  • Artists: 37%; Arts nonprofits: 90%; Creative businesses: 67%
Respondents that reported total, very significant, and severe losses in income/revenue

  • Artists: 65%; Arts nonprofits: 57%; Creative businesses: 70%
Average loss reported by respondents

  • Artists: -$12,941.16; Arts nonprofits: -$73,964.63; Creative businesses: -$39,029.61
Respondents that reported loss of contracts

  • Artists: 59%; Arts nonprofits: 50%; Creative businesses: 63%
Respondents that have had to lay off employees

  • Arts nonprofits: 30%; Creative businesses: 22%


Some key observations based on the survey findings include:

  • Very significant income/revenue reductions and losses are being experienced by artists, arts nonprofits, and creative businesses in the West. 
  • Overall, artists, arts nonprofits, and creative businesses in the West face greater financial fragility when compared with American households, nonprofits, and small businesses generally.
  • Due to low savings and reserves levels, the financial situation of many artists, arts nonprofits, and creative businesses in the West will likely worsen in the coming months, as their savings and reserves are depleted unless they are able to access some form of financial support. 
  • Relief funding for artists and relief funding for arts organizations are viewed to be the most supportive interventions, but supportive policies like unemployment benefits and business loans also hold promise in supporting the field.


Click HERE to view the full report.



The Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF) is a nonprofit arts service organization dedicated to strengthening the financial, organizational, and policy infrastructure of the arts in the West. WESTAF assists state arts agencies, arts organizations, and artists in their quest to serve diverse audiences, enrich the lives of local communities, and provide access to the arts and arts education for all. Through innovative programming, advocacy, research, technology, and grantmaking, WESTAF encourages the creative advancement and preservation of the arts regionally and through a national network of customers and alliances.