The Creative Impact of COVID-19 on Intentionally Marginalized Artists and Creative Workers

Posted by Isaac Fitzsimons, Apr 01, 2021 0 comments

This is the final post in the series The Impact of COVID-19 on Intentionally Marginalized Artists and Creative Workers. Read the introduction post here.

Note: This post sometimes uses BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) to categorize the respondents. Full effort was made to point out significant differences between specific races and ethnicities within the BIPOC respondents.

In the initial days of the pandemic, I—like many of you, I’m sure—imagined that I’d have so much more time to create. As a writer, I envisioned using what would have been my commute to crank out the draft of my next novel. However, my good intentions quickly faded as the reality of living through a pandemic set in.

I find some comfort in knowing that I’m not alone. Our survey of artists and creative workers found that 64% experienced a decrease in their creative productivity during the pandemic. Much of this decrease is due to logistical reasons: in-person events have been cancelled, venues have been closed. Additionally, artists are finding that their time is being spent on other responsibilities: homeschooling kids, taking care of elderly parents, or sifting through grant or loan applications to supplement lost income.

Plus, it’s hard to create when everything around you feels like a fire that needs to be put out. Perhaps not surprisingly, over half (53%) responded that their decline in productivity was due to stress, anxiety, and depression about the state of the world, and 19% said that their health or their family’s health had been impacted by COVID-19, preventing them from working. This last finding was true for 25% of BIPOC respondents, compared to 15% of white respondents. Within the BIPOC respondents, the top two most affected groups were artists who identify as Indigenous (30%) and Black (26%). Click here to explore the interactive chart.

Chart showing the reasons for the decrease in productivity in artists and creative workers.

Pivoting to Work Online

Interestingly, while it seems like the world has gone virtual, respondents did not report an increase in sharing their work online, compared to pre-pandemic. However, more people who are sharing their work online now are doing so for free (54%) compared to prior to the pandemic (49%).

Chart showing the percentage of artists and creative workers sharing their work online during and prior to COVID-19.

BIPOC artists are more likely to be sharing their work online for free (59%) compared to white artists (55%), with Hispanic/Latino/Latinx artists having the highest percentage of sharing their work online for free (63%) followed by Asian artists (62%).

About a quarter of artists are not sharing their work online at all. Many open-ended responses expressed the feeling that art is considered a luxury that many people are not able to afford right now:

“Art is an extra in people’s lives. People are not buying.”

Another factor is that hosting and managing a website is expensive and time consuming:

“Costs too much, too much time to maintain a website.”

Some artists work in mediums that don’t translate well to an online space. For those who do, there are concerns about plagiarism and lack of copyright protections for artists.

Finally, for many artists who have always sold face-to-face, online selling is a foreign landscape.

Assisting Community

Though this post and previous ones in this series have demonstrated how much artists and creative workers are hurting, we still found that 77% are using their creative practice to help their community get through the pandemic. This is especially true of BIPOC artists (82%), and most seen in Black artists (87%) and disabled, Black artists (89%).

I’m going to end with this quote from a survey respondent which I think nicely sums up this section:

“I am busy making masks to donate to my community & those in need. … As long as there are places I can donate them to, I won’t sell them.”

Invitation to Participate

So if you, like me, didn’t finish the creative project you set out to do last year, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s likely your time and energy were spent elsewhere, or simply on surviving, which is enough.

For me, much of my time was spent on our COVID-19 research, which continues today. We’re currently seeking responses for two surveys: one on the impact of COVID-19 on arts and culture organizations, and one on the impact of COVID-19 on artists and creative workers, the results of which will be released later this year in collaboration with Artist Relief and Yancey Consulting. Please share these survey links with your networks.

Finally, I want to thank everyone who has shared their experiences already. Your responses demonstrate the immense value that artists and creative workers bring to our country and emphasize the need for real action to support the arts and culture sector in this challenging time.

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