New survey asked artists what COVID-19 did to their jobs. The results are devastating

Dancers, directors, actors and other artists have been particularly hard hit by coronavirus cancellations and closures.
Dancers, directors, actors and other artists have been particularly hard hit by coronavirus cancellations and closures.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Artists in America are suffering greatly amid the closures and cancellations triggered nationwide by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the sheer scope of their plight is just beginning to become clear.

A new national coalition of arts organizations called Artist Relief announced Friday that in its first 15 days, as the group was identifying its first 200 grants, nearly 55,000 applications flooded in. Every week, from Artist Relief’s April 8 launch and into at least September, the group is giving $5,000 grants to 100 artists — and the staggering demand for that limited funding has revealed other stark statistics on the economic pain of the pandemic.

About 11,000 of the Artist Relief applicants completed a survey co-sponsored by the nonprofit advocacy group Americans for the Arts. Sixty-two percent of those surveyed said they are now unemployed (a number that rose to 67% for California respondents), and 80% do not yet have a plan for how to recover from the crisis.

On average, these artists estimated that their annual income will decline by more than $27,000.


Americans for the Arts designed the survey to use an an advocacy tool for the country’s nearly 5 million creative artists, a number that includes teaching artists and hobby artists.

“These survey results will prove to be a key piece to further our local, state and federal policy efforts specific to individual creative workers in the next phase of COVID-19 recovery,” Robert L. Lynch, the group’s president and chief executive, said in the survey announcement.

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A large part of that advocacy is tied to strengthening provisions for artists working as freelancers or contractors in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES.

Fundraising continues at Artist Relief, which launched with $10 million, half of that from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The coalition has since raised an additional $1,128,500 from individual donations online.

Sundance Institute has joined as the fund’s first “field partner,” contributing its expertise in film, media and theater, as well as investing an undisclosed part of its $1 million COVID-19 fund. The institute is looking for ways to address the needs of artists in those fields.


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Original donors to the Artist Relief fund include L.A.’s Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts, L.A.’s Metabolic Studio, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.

To apply for a grant, or to donate to the fund, go to: