Reading List: The Arts in the Time of COVID

By Paulette Beete
Two ballet dancers in a pas de deux wear masks as they perform onstage

Cincinnati Ballet company members Jacqueline Damico Amador and Taylor Carrasco perform "I Think I Love You" from Wild Sweet Love, choreographed by Trey McIntyre. Photo by Hiromi Platt 

There is no aspect of American life that hasn’t been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, from the ways we learn and work, to the ways we travel and shop, to the ways we interact with our very own families. And with a winter surge underway, recovery is still down the road. 

The arts, of course, are no exception to this situation. Nearly every element of the arts and culture landscape has changed since March, including how art is created, consumed, and monetized. The shuttering of venues has had a devastating economic effect: according to an Americans for the Arts survey, an estimated $14.6 billion have been lost (and increasing every day), and more than 62,000 arts workers have been laid off. Another 50,000 have been furloughed, and a third of arts organizations have had to reduce the salaries of remaining staff. 

In order to survive, artists and arts organizations have relied on the very ingenuity and innovation that fuel creativity in the first place. Digital spaces have become rife with experimentation, productions and events have been transformed for outdoor spaces, and the act of creative collaboration has sometimes demanded drastic measures (COVID bubbles anyone?). 

In this issue of American Artscape, we’ll look at the heartbreak and the silver linings, from how arts organizations across the country are faring, to how reopening plans are proceeding, to how the National Endowment for the Arts and our partners have worked together to strengthen the sector during this crisis. 

In the coming months, artists and arts organizations will continue to face tough decisions. But at the same time, we at the Arts Endowment are confident that the arts—an intrinsic part of human nature, and typically one of the nation’s most booming industries—will prove resilient and prevail. Creativity will not stop. Economic gains will eventually return. The show, as it’s said, will go on. 

Find American Artscape: The Arts in the Time of COVID as well as an archive of past magazine issues in the Stories section of

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