Arts and Culture

United States arts and culture contributed about $876.7 billion, or 4.2%, to the GDP in 2020, according to new data released recently by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In spite of that, the report showed that the entire arts economy shrank at nearly twice the rate of the overall economy from 2019 to 2020. 

Called the Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account, or ACPSA, the report comes out annually, measuring the economic impact of the nonprofit and commercial arts and culture industries. This ACPSA gave a look at just how hard the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic hit the arts sector.

The performing arts was one of the hardest hit sectors of the American economy, along with oil drilling/exploration and air travel, the report said.

From 2019 to 2020, the American arts economy lost 604,000 jobs, ACPSA reported. That number does not include self-employed artists and arts workers who lost gigs and opportunities in 2020 due to the pandemic. 

Arts employment in Kentucky declined nearly 12% since 2019. That’s slightly more than the U.S. average of 11.62%. Despite a decline in production and the loss of employment, the arts still added around $5.6 billion to the state’s economy.

The report said, “several large industries helped to cushion declines for the overall arts sector,” including growth in the web publishing and streaming industry, which added 12,000 salaried roles across the country.

In a press release, Maria Rosario Jackson, who chairs the NEA, said the data shows just how bad of a hit the arts took during year one of COVID-19. Yet, “the sector continues to play an outsized role in the U.S. economy.”

“The NEA is committed to participating as a key partner in the recovery of this sector, recognizing not only its economic value, but also the arts’ capacity to transform the lives of individuals and communities in other ways, contributing to health and well-being, and overall resilience,” Jackson said.

Stephanie Wolf is WFPL's Arts & Culture Reporter.