COVID-19 Impact on NYC Artists: Closures and Cancellations
On March 12, 2020, in response to COVID-19, New York State (NYS) Governor Andrew Cuomo barred gatherings of more than 500 people and placed restrictions on other gatherings, prompting New York City’s (NYC) cultural institutions—including the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met), the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Guggenheim, the Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall and the NY Philharmonic—to shut their doors, postpone all programming and cancel all shows.
In a press conference the same day, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio stressed the importance of the restrictions, which he conveyed as “difficult but necessary.”
On March 20, 2020, Governor Cuomo announced an executive order creating “New York State on PAUSE” restrictions, resulting in a de-facto shelter in place order.
While artists, cultural organizations and institutions, cultural groups and galleries began exploring creative ways to keep people engaged with art, culture and commerce while observing safety precautions, data shows that the art and cultural community, in particular, was disproportionately and negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, as compared with other sectors.
NYC Artists During COVID
In New York State, the cultural sector contributes more than $120 billion to the economy annually. However, when cultural institutions closed their doors in March 2020, the City’s artists, actors, musicians, stagehands and freelancers suddenly found themselves unemployed and severed from their communities and livelihoods.
By early April, the Queens Museum had laid off 30 employees, the Whitney Museum of Art had laid off 20 percent of its staff and other institutions expressed they may have to lay off a significant number of employees – in some cases up to 68 percent.
Drop in NYC Artists’ Employment due to COVID19
Comparing July 2019 with July 2020, NYC saw a 69% decrease in artists employed.
Artist Job Loss Compared to Other Industries due to COVID19
Comparing July 2019 and July 2020 employment changes by sector, Arts and Entertainment have been hit especially hard.
Arts and Entertainment lost 61% of jobs while Health Care and Social Assistance and Information gained 12% and 11% jobs respectively.
Food Service and Drinking Places and Clothing stores were also hit hard with a 40% loss in employment.
Artist Unemployment Claims
- “Open Culture”, temporary use of outdoor space for artistic and cultural events. Read the Law: Local Law 8 of 2021
- COVID-19 reopening plans and resources for art and cultural institutions in NYC. Read the Law: Local Law 86 of 2020
- Coordinating the use of open space for art and cultural programming. Read the Law: Local Law 7 of 2020
For feedback, comments, and questions please email Data@council.nyc.gov.
Created by the NYC Council Data Team.