Midwestern artists see incomes and careers collapse during pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on the arts in the United States.
Throughout 2020 and now midway through 2021, millions of musicians, film industry workers, painters, and others in the United States and elsewhere have seen their incomes drastically reduced or completely cut off due to disability. to organize concerts, film sets, festivals and other events and venues. Artists who rely on their clients to provide them with income have seen their clientele get laid off themselves and not be able to support them. At the same time, many artists have died in the pandemic or have been permanently affected by contracting the coronavirus.
The situation in the United States is made much worse by the fact that artists are almost entirely at the mercy of the “free market” and the whims of benevolent billionaire-philanthropists. Even before the current health disaster, federal programs like the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) were woefully underfunded ($ 162.3 million in 2020), while trillions were handed over to the military industrial complex. to make weapons for future devastating wars against major powers like China and Russia. Americans for the Arts has estimated that artists across the country have lost $ 12.5 billion in revenue since the start of the pandemic.
For artists based in the 12 Midwestern states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota), the pandemic has seen their ability to earn a living. dry up dramatically.
Kansas City National Public Radio affiliate KCUR produced a podcast in April on the issue. Artist Inc., an organization that helps professional development artists in the Midwest, conducted a survey finding that nearly 60 percent of artists in the region experienced a decline in creative output through 2020 and 2021. Additionally , 80 percent of artists said the pandemic has negatively affected their artistic practice.
Artist Inc. program specialist Kathy Liao explained on the podcast, “I think one of the most important things that struck me as an artist myself is that one in five artists, around 20. %, is still not able to practice his art, and there is a significant amount of artists in the area who still cannot be in their studio, able to do the work that they are doing right now .
Artist Inc. has received numerous calls for financial support and studio space from artists in distress. Additionally, many have asked for support for mental health struggles that contribute to the regional decline in artistic productivity. A third of the artists surveyed were forced to find employment outside the arts in order to survive. Forty-two percent applied for relief grants through nonprofits, foundations and other donor entities. Within this group, 28% of artists applied for arts-related grants. Half of the applicants received some form of assistance. Three in four artists reported negative or very negative effects on their practice, and 90% of artists in the Midwest experienced a loss of income from April 2020 to April 2021. Six in eight artists lost more than two sources of income, which may include performances. concerts, contracts, etc.
Performing artists in particular, such as musicians and dancers, are at great risk of losing all of their income. The NEA reports that more than 50% of actors, dancers and choreographers experienced unemployment in the third quarter of 2020. Temporary leaves are a problem for employed artists. Richard Kuranda, director of the Raue Center for the Arts in Crystal Lake, Illinois (45 miles northwest of Chicago), told Patch.com the center has been forced to put 40% of its staff on leave during the pandemic . It is only now that the organization is starting to rehire these employees.
The pandemic has prompted visual artists to attempt to sell their work through social media and personal websites. Sales of gallery artwork for home decor is one of the only art sectors to see an increase in sales, as people forced to stay at home due to blockages choose to adorn their residences. According to a recent Americans for the Arts poll, however, only 19% of sales of fine artists come from social media. 88% of visual artists are now present on social networks. Another potential new source of income is online crowdfunding through platforms like Patreon. Forty-two percent of artists in the Artist Inc. survey felt that the way they deliver their art to the public has been permanently changed by the pandemic.
Statistics have been grim for all Midwestern states since March 2020. When Americans for the Arts conducted a survey, it found that in Iowa at least 700 arts-related jobs were lost between April and October 2020. As of during those months. , Iowa was hit to the tune of $ 31 million by the shutdown of the arts industry. Iowa Workforce Development reported that 9,741 artists from all industries reported being unemployed during this time. There are more than 42,000 Iowians employed in the arts, according to the United States Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Previously, in-person art communities that gathered in galleries and concert halls or in the open air moved online through major social media sites and through Zoom, the teleconferencing app that has been used by millions. people daily throughout 2020. Lack of financial support threatens to see a significant portion of artists quit their profession and never return.
May 11, Daily Iowan published an article on the plight of the University of Iowa seniors during the pandemic. Students lamented the loss of in-person interaction with other students and faculty, and potential career opportunities. UI printmaking student Alex Fox explained that the cancellation of his summer 2020 internship in Berlin was a blow to his artistic hopes. He has expressed an intention, upon graduation, to move to Chicago and try to sell his work on Etsy. He acknowledged that this could prove difficult.
Like many other theater companies, the Lied Center for Performing Arts in Lincoln, Nebraska has chosen to broadcast performances online instead of closing its hall during the 2020-2021 season. Ticket sales generally represent half of the centre’s budget; in 2020, that figure fell to five percent. Executive Director Bill Stephan thanked donors for keeping the center afloat. “They also really appreciate that we didn’t just close our doors, that we found a way to continue to bring the arts to the community, and they wanted to thank us and be a part of it. “
Many art fairs, concerts, shows and festivals scheduled for winter and spring 2021 are now canceled for two consecutive years. Smaller events struggled to survive this revenue success, and some small theater companies and conventions closed their doors entirely.
Detroit-based WDIV Local 4 published an article about the effects of the cancellation of the Ann Arbor Art Fair for two consecutive years on local artists and stores. Lindsey Leyland, co-owner of The Getup Vintage clothing store, commented: “I was pretty sure Art Fair was going to take place. Missing those two years in a row is a bit heartbreaking. Honestly, this is one of the most profitable weeks for us. Ed Davidson, owner of the Bivouac outdoor clothing store, confirmed that the art fair attracts a lot of customers to the city. “[The art fair] is a huge, huge boom for the local economy. … We are excited from dawn to dusk, so this is a huge loss for the community.
In short, many Midwestern artists face poverty or the complete collapse of their artistic aspirations; countless small businesses face ruin. Billionaires in the region, however, continue to rake in the money.
Hedge fund manager Ken Griffin, Illinois’ richest person, for example, absorbed an additional $ 4 billion from April 2020 to April 2021, bringing his net worth to $ 16 billion, according to Forbes magazine. As Patch.com noted, “Griffin’s income in 2020 was roughly 192,000 times what a minimum wage person would have earned last year – if he had been fortunate enough to keep his job. during the pandemic. While many Illinoisians waited for stimulus checks of $ 1,200 last year to make ends meet, Griffin could have personally written each Illinois a check for that amount and he still had nearly a billion dollars left in. bank. And he’s just one of Illinois’ 22 billionaires. This list includes Governor JB Pritzker and three other members of the Pritzker family, who alone control over $ 13 billion in wealth.
Michigan “has” nine billionaires, a list led by Daniel Gilbert, owner and co-founder of Quicken Loans, with a net worth of $ 51.9 billion. Les Wexner, the founder of L Brands, is Ohio’s richest individual and one of the state’s eight billionaires, with a reported value of $ 6.1 billion. Wisconsin also has eight billionaires, with John Menard Jr. of Menard Inc., worth $ 14.2 billion, at the head of the group. Glen Taylor, owner of the Minnesota Timberwolves, on Minneapolis Star Tribune and commercial printing Taylor Corp, at $ 2.9 billion, is the richest of Minnesota’s four billionaires.