By Bill Hirschman
Already, the COVID-19 pandemic has cost the Miami-Dade arts and culture world an estimated $22.9 million and affected 1,700 jobs just through the end of March, according to the first figures from an ongoing survey by the county Department of Cultural Affairs.
The survey of 201 non-profit arts and cultural organizations, including but not limited to theaters, totaled $5.7 million in revenue loss from cultural facility and arts venue closures; $14.8 million in revenue loss from events and programs cancellations, and $2.3 million from COVID-19 emergency related expenses.
Figures for April will start being accumulated by the department next week.
Besides trying to get a full sense of the dollars and cents loss, the department sought to identify the most pressing financial concerns. The number one financial priority for 49 percent of respondents was “Administrative and Artistic Salaries/Fees,” and 47 percent of respondents indicated that “Reduced/Eliminated Earned Revenue and Contributed Income” was the second-most serious concern.
The report stated, “With the closing of the cultural community, earned revenue associated with such sources as admissions, ticket sales, contracted services, and gifts shops and concessions sales stopped and donations have diminished significantly. In addition, before facilities closed and events were cancelled, organizations spent additional funds on such items as additional cleaning services, supplies and personnel.”
The department is concerned that the damage to the arts community – a major economic driver in the community – is clear to outside funding sources.
The release by department director Michael Spring explained, “The financial and jobs impact documented by this data demonstrates the enormous and traumatic effect that this public health crisis is continuing to have on the operations of arts and cultural organizations and the lives of cultural workers. These somber results confirm the anecdotal evidence garnered through our conversations … over the past few weeks. The department will be sharing the survey data with our local, state and national arts funder colleagues and partners.”
But the damage is not simply economic, the report continued. “It is important to describe this quantitative impact; however, the effect of COVID-19 also has a tremendous effect on the spirit of our community which has been defined and enriched by the very quality and diversity of our vibrant arts and cultural life. These ‘numerical’ losses are deepened by the loss of that essential connection that we share of coming together to experience and celebrate dance, music, theater, the visual arts, the sciences, history and other cultural expressions. In these uncertain times, as we remain safer at home for an indeterminate amount of time, the resulting sense of isolation is a loss that can feel immeasurable.”
The upcoming April survey will include questions about resources applied for and/or received from public and private sources at the local, state and/or federal level.