62% of Artists Are Out of Work. Relief Funds Can Only Fix So Much.

“The arts are not just an economic lever for the country — it’s also a workforce and a labor force,” says Deana Haggag, the CEO of a non-profit that’s part of an artist relief effort offering $5,000 grants to artists affected by COVID-19.

62% of artists in the United States are out of work. 

Nearly all of them have experienced some income loss. 

Like other global supply chains, getting materials to create is becoming tougher.

These are a few key takeaways from a sweeping new survey by the non-profit Americans for the Arts as they aim to gather data on how the creative class is impacted by COVID-19 across the country.

The COVID-19 Impact Survey for Artists and Creative Workers has gotten over 18,000 replies from a range of workers from creative industries including teachers, fashion designers, theater performers, writers and more.

Major takeaways from the COVID-19 Impact Survey for Artists and Creative Workers:

  • 62% have become fully unemployed because of COVID-19
  • 95% have experienced income loss from COVID-19
  • The average decline in estimated total annual income is $27,103
  • 66% can’t access supplies/resources/spaces/people necessary for their creative work
  • 80% do not yet have a plan to recover from the crisis

Olivia Obineme (2017)
Olivia Obineme (2017)

“Right now, we’re watching all gig economies fall apart — restaurant workers, domestic workers, transportation workers and now the creative workforce,” says Deana Haggag, CEO and president of non-profit arts organization United States Artists. “The arts are not just an economic lever for the country. It’s also a workforce and a labor force.”

Haggag’s organization is part of a coalition of arts-centric grantmakers that have teamed up to create Artist Relief — an emergency fund to offer financial and informational resources to artists across the United States, according to their website. It also collaborated with Americans for the Arts for this latest survey.

Offering a $5,000 grant to applicants who qualify, Artist Relief is financially supporting artists facing “dire financial emergencies” due to COVID-19.

Listen: Deana Haggag says artists and creatives are part of the gig economy; new data can better help the government support creatives during COVID-19.

Since launching on April 8th, the group has received over 55,000 applicants. Its current budget has allowed for 200 grants to be issued to date.

“This isn’t a fund for artist projects or opportunity loss,” says Haggag, who also sits on the trustee board for the Detroit Institute of Arts. “We’re looking for folks who are cash-strapped and can’t afford basic life essentials like child care, medical care, groceries and housing.”

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  • Ryan Patrick Hooper
    Ryan Patrick Hooper is the award-winning host of "In the Groove" on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit’s NPR station. Hooper has covered stories for the New York Times, NPR, Detroit Free Press, Hour Detroit, SPIN and Paste magazine.