Study of Ohio arts industry during pandemic shows big hits to state economy

An analysis commissioned by an Ohio arts foundation showed significant unemployment and economic losses in the arts, and thus in the state, as the pandemic canceled shows and exhibits.

The “creative industries,” as the arts are called in a report announced this week by the Ohio Citizens for the Arts Foundation, are a “critical economic driver” impacting nearly 330,000 jobs, $18 billion in payroll and $55 billion in economic output.

The study was done in partnership with the Center for Regional Development at Bowling Green State University, which looked at impacts to regional economies, workforce numbers and community development to find “the exact toll that the pandemic has inflicted upon Ohio’s artists, organizations and anchor institutions .”

“The COVID-19 pandemic had a severe negative impact on creative industries in Ohio,” the study found.

The arts saw a more than 12% decrease in employment, compared to single-digit losses for other industries in the state. Payroll numbers dipped more than 7% and economic output was down nearly 16% in 2020, according to the study.

“Ohio’s creative businesses were hardest hit with forced closures, as our sector was closed longer than any other industry and will be the last industry in Ohio to recover fully,” Angela Meleca, OCA’s executive director, said in a statement.

The National Endowment for the Arts shows Ohio’s arts and cultural production adding 2.8%, or $19.6 billion to the state’s economy, with 47.2% of Ohio adults attending live music, theater or dance performances.

Arts officials and advocates spent much of the pandemic urging the state to treat theater, music and other creative entities as a priority since they are impacted by a lack of recreational spending, but also act as a respite for the public as they endured lockdowns and pandemic precautions.

In January of this year, OCA Board of Directors President Elizabeth Brown-Ellis, also serving as head of the Lima Symphony Orchestra, called the arts “fundamental parts of our society and our economic prosperity.”

CARES Act funding in Ohio was directed toward the arts in November 2020, in the form of a $20 million stopgap, attempting to stop the surge of losses in the creative industries. Just one year ago, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services reported a 21% unemployment rate for the arts and entertainment sector.

Meleca told the Ohio Capital Journal that $20 million stopgap is “the only funding boost our sector has received from the state.” She said the OCA is currently trying to obtain a $50 million boost from American Rescue Plan funds.

February 2022’s seasonally adjusted employment numbers from the ODJFS saw an uptick in employment numbers for arts, entertainment and recreation, with a 5% increase year over year. The arts sector made up 70,700 jobs, according to the ODJFS data.

In 2021, the OCA surveyed member organizations and identified a need closer to $70 million to account for lost revenue and jobs.

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