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The Mass Cultural Council reported $264 million in revenue losses in the arts and cultural sector statewide due to the coronavirus pandemic in an April 15 press release.
The MCC, a Boston-based arts funding agency, surveyed nearly 700 arts and cultural organizations across Massachusetts from April 4 to April 14. The organizations reported laying off, furloughing, or reducing hours and wages for more than 15,000 workers.
Moreover, 91 percent of respondents reported cancelling events and programs, and 95 percent of organizations with physical facilities have closed their spaces to the public. The MCC plans to share this data with state legislators.
Anita Walker, executive director of the MCC, said the arts and cultural sectors are important for the health and economic development of the state.
“Arts and culture are incredibly powerful community builders,” she said. “Not being able to make those human connections and bring people together at a time when they are isolated — we're going to see a lot of consequences in terms of the health and wellbeing of people in Massachusetts.”
In conducting surveys and providing relief funds for artists, the MCC and its advocacy partners hope legislators continue to support the arts by developing relief packages to offset the economic impacts of coronavirus, according to Walker.
“I think what we've made abundantly clear is that our arts and cultural organizations and our individual working artists — these are assets and treasures that really belong to the public,” she said.
Several Cambridge organizations have also stepped up to provide relief for artists.
The Cambridge Community Foundation, a local charity, began the Cambridge Artists Relief Fund to provide grants to local artists and cultural organizations facing financial burdens.
Geeta K. Pradhan, president of the foundation, emphasized the impact of coronavirus on the arts sector.
“The arts actually thrive on the opposite of social distancing. They thrive on social connectedness,” she said. “And having lost that has been a big, big, big hitch to the arts, more than any other sector that I can think of.”
The Cambridge Public Library announced a program on Thursday that will pay artists to create virtual programming for the public, even though its physical spaces remain closed indefinitely.
MASSCreative — a nonprofit which advocates on behalf of its members including the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Harvard Art Museums — is partnered with the MCC and is taking similar measures to guide the arts industry.
In the past week, MASSCreative began producing a weekly webinar and a social media campaign promoting the arts, according to executive director Emily Ruddock.
Ruddock said she is concerned, however, that the “diverse creative ecology” that drives Massachusetts’s cultural sector could be radically changed as a result of the pandemic.
“The creative center in Massachusetts will survive. But I think that the variety and diversity — however you want to define diversity — will be challenged,” she said.
Ruddock argued that smaller arts groups and those serving marginalized groups may not be able to weather the cultural sector’s shutdown without additional relief.
Pradhan said she believes the field will recover.
“I have every faith that this community will rebound back, but not without the help of those who can afford it,” she said.
—Staff writer Simon J. Levien can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @simonjlevien.
—Staff writer Austin W. Li can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @austinwli.
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