New Survey Shows $67.7 Million Loss for Dallas Arts Industry During Pandemic

As several arts venues remain closed, financial losses and job losses grow

Dallas Chamber Symphony

The coronavirus pandemic continues to ravage the Dallas arts sector. A second survey conducted by The Arts Community Alliance (TACA), Dallas Arts District (DAD) and Dallas Area Cultural Advocacy Coalition (DACAC) shows financial losses have doubled to $67.7 million and job losses have topped 1,200.

Responses from 91 participating organizations show the sector has suffered $67,771,172 in total financial losses in the 4.5 month period from March 13, when the shutdown started, through July 31. That is $34.12 million, more than double the $33.65 million in losses reported in the first survey period through May 31.

Some of the increase is due to the larger number of participating organizations. However, 86% of that increase was from the 52 groups who participated in both surveys, $29.5 million in just the past two months.

Terry Loftis giving opening remarks at 2019 TACA Perforum
Gary Donihoo
Terry D. Loftis, TACA's president and executive director.

“All of these organizations are just struggling to hold on,” Terry D. Loftis, president and executive director of the arts funding organization TACA, said. TACA has distributed $592,500 in emergency COVID relief grants to 70 groups. “The philanthropic community is certainly working to step up and help, but these losses are staggering. And given the rate they are growing, we’ve got a huge challenge to overcome.”

This survey comes as Dallas Summer Musicals announces the postponement of Jersey Boys and Oklahoma! and Texas Ballet Theater decides to cancel its annual production of The Nutcracker. These performances were scheduled for later this year, revealing how difficult it is for arts organizations to present live performances with social distancing and capacity limits. Survey results show more than 2,155,000 in lost or deferred attendance, and the revenue losses show the 91 organizations have lost an average of 25% of their budgets since March 13.

Job losses in the arts sector are mounting as well. The survey shows 1,219 people have been furloughed or laid off through July 31, up from 649 at the end of May. 189 of these were full-time staff members and 1,030 were part-time. These new job losses had been anticipated as funds from the forgivable Payroll Protection Program loans under the federal CARES Act began running out in June and July. These funds had allowed organizations to keep paying employees for two months. Fifty groups said their loans had expired, forcing cuts in their workforce.

Remaining staff members have taken pay cuts. Fifteen arts organizations reduced salaries up to 20%. Seven companies reduced pay from 20% to 40% and an additional seven institutions reduced salaries by 40% or more. Fifty-one arts groups have kept their salaries stable.

“It’s really pretty simple. Everyone is trying to find enough cash so we can live to fight another day,” Joanna St. Angelo, president of the grass-roots arts advocacy group DACAC, said. “We are turning to donors, patrons, foundations and corporations. Perhaps the federal government will include the arts in another stimulus package, or maybe the City can find just a little bit more. We are checking under every couch cushion to see what we can find.”

There is hope. Several Dallas museums have opened or have announced reopening dates. After being closed for five months, the Dallas Museum of Art is welcoming patrons and announcing new exhibitions. The Dallas Symphony Orchestra will perform for a live audience of 50-75 people this fall. The AT&T Performing Arts Center announced a 2020-2021 season of its Elevator Project and the continuation of the Elevator Project's 2019-2020 season outdoors in Strauss Square in September.

Dallas Museum of Art social distancing
Kimberly Richard
The Dallas Museum of Art has reopened, offering helpful tips about social distancing.

Safety is the arts industry's top priority for reopening. A Dallas Arts District-led task force recently created guidelines to safely reopen during the pandemic, with 61 Dallas cultural organizations signing on. The survey reveals 38% of the respondents have plans to safely reopen by the end of the year. 42% say they are targeting the first two quarters of 2021.

Arts organizations have also been expanding programming in the digital sphere. The Dallas Opera's TDO Network reaches millions around the world. WaterTower Theatre produced I Am My Own Wife by Dallas native Doug Wright online and is planning more online performances.

“This community is creative and resilient - two things that are critical to surviving a crisis like this,” Lily Weiss, executive director of the Dallas Arts District, said. “I’m convinced we will find ways to get back in front of our audiences and out into the community – and do it safely. The arts will play an important role in the recovery of our economy and healing our community, and I’m optimistic Dallas will find the resources to help us do that. There’s too much at stake.”

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