Atlanta Ballet

Nonprofit arts organizations across Atlanta are expected to collectively lose $10.6 million due to the coronavirus shut down. The data comes from a new survey of more than 55 arts nonprofits conducted by Lara Smith, managing director of Dad’s Garage Theatre.

The data comes from a survey of most of the leading arts organizations in metro Atlanta, including many nonprofits that are part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies cohort. The Atlanta Regional Commission assisted in the creation of the survey and data analysis. Some of the organizations surveyed include Alliance Theatre, Atlanta Ballet, Actor’s Express, Horizon Theatre, High Museum of Art, Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA), Decatur Book Festival, 7 Stages, Atlanta Jewish Music Festival, City Springs Theatre Company, True Colors Theatre Company, and Youth Ensemble of Atlanta.

Organizations are looking at average losses of $25,000 to over $1 million, depending on budget size. For instance, organizations with budgets under $250,000 are currently set to lose an average of $25,000 while organizations with budgets of between $1 million and $2 million are set to lose $345,000 on average.

“All in, right now there are $10.6 million in anticipated losses across the arts nonprofit sector in Atlanta,” Smith said. “This number will only go up, as these numbers are underreported, by a large margin. Four organizations with budgets of over $10 million participated in the survey, but only three reported anticipated losses. And we had one third of the region’s nonprofit arts organizations participate.”

Actor’s Express

Perhaps the most disturbing figure in the survey is that 19 percent of arts nonprofits in Atlanta aren’t sure they are going to make it, and may close permanently. Another 34 percent are only going to make it if they get assistance from the Small Business Administration (SBA) or similar loan programs.

Smith said 96 precent of respondents expressed the need for additional funding in the form of an unrestricted grant with a total need of $4.78 million. Those surveyed indicated needing just over $2.5 million in loans, with 65 percent of that falling into the long-term loan category, as many have concerns they will not receive SBA funding.

“There are organizations that have $1 to $2 million budgets, which may seem like a lot, are in precarious positions,” Smith warned. “If they lose $345,000 and don’t have a financial buffer, the losses could sink them.”

Many arts organizations also expressed uncertainty about when they would reopen their doors. “Arts organizations are trying to wrap their heads around the timeline for reopening. Some were saying this summer, some were saying not until 2021,” Smith stated.

There is some good news to this survey, including the fact that 64 percent of organizations started the COVID-19 crisis with a financial safety net in the form of a reserves, a line of credit, or an endowment. The average amount of buffer is six months, but ranges from one month to four years. Also, 30 percent  of respondents have not made any staffing changes, as they have been able to maintain current payroll and contractor payments.

According  to Josh Phillipson, who manages Arts and Culture for the Atlanta Regional Commission, the nonprofit arts and culture sector is a $719.8 million industry in metro Atlanta – one that supports 23,514 full-time equivalent jobs and generates $64.5 million in local and state government revenue.

Museum of Design Atlanta

“Spending by nonprofit arts and cultural organizations totaled $434.8 million in metro Atlanta during fiscal year 2015,” Phillipson said. “This money moves through our local economy and supports a variety of businesses and government initiatives. Event-related spending by arts attendees totaled $285 million in Metro Atlanta during fiscal year 2015, excluding the cost of event admission.”

Smith said cutting arts organizations and artists out of economic relief packages would be a mistake, especially since our sector is central to building a strong economy.

Arts and culture organizations – theaters, music venues, museums –  have a symbiotic relationship with many other industries, such as tourism, hotels/hospitality, travel, restaurants, and nightlife, she said.

“Dinner and a show”is a real thing – people want to go out and have a great night on the town, they want to see a show and have a delicious dinner,” Smith added. “Music venues and museums draw in tourists, which helps our hotel and airline industries. When looking for new corporate headquarters, companies often consider the density of arts organizations – they know their employees want to live in a vibrant, fun, enjoyable town.”

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.