SMU DataArts - Cultural Data Profile


SMU DataArts Releases Findings on Reach of $53 Billion in Federal COVID-19 Relief Funding for the Arts and Culture Sector Across the United States

  • Posted Jan 23, 2024

Unprecedented levels of federal arts funding reached nearly every community in the U.S. during the pandemic

Dallas, TX / January 23, 2023 – A new study, Following the Funding: Distribution of Federal COVID-19 Relief Funds for the Arts and Culture Sector, from SMU DataArts illuminates the breadth and distribution of federal COVID-19 relief funding that helped to keep the arts and culture sector afloat in the wake of the pandemic.

The report highlights that U.S. federal government agencies provided unprecedented levels of federal relief funding to the arts and culture sector during the COVID-19 pandemic. Encompassing both nonprofit and for-profit organizations and venues, $53 billion was distributed via grants nationwide to the arts and culture sector between 2020 and 2023.  For nonprofit arts and cultural organizations alone, the relief funding, about $16 billion, was twice that of cumulative federal funds awarded over 24 years (2000-2023) by the National Endowment for the Arts and Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The funding was distributed broadly across the country, benefiting 96% of U.S. counties, with no single region receiving an exceptionally high share of total federal relief dollars. These programs, which kept many organizations afloat during the pandemic and saved jobs in the arts, were the result of unparalleled collective advocacy from the arts and culture sector that included non-profit organizations and commercial entertainment venues alike.

The report was prepared with support from Bloomberg Associates, a philanthropic consultancy that advises cities around the world and is a part of Bloomberg Philanthropies, which encompasses all of Michael R. Bloomberg’s giving and works to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people.

Kate Levin, Principal at Bloomberg Associates who also leads the Arts program at Bloomberg Philanthropies, said, “This research underscores the evolving recognition of arts and culture’s significance to the economy and quality of life in every region of the country, and the important role that COVID-19 relief funding played in sustaining the sector.  The report provides a baseline understanding of an historic moment in federal arts funding. A deeper understanding of the impact of these programs is essential to supporting arts and culture through the rebuilding process and ensuring that the creative sector continues its collective advocacy to be included in policy measures of this kind.”

Funding was awarded nationally to arts and culture via four federal programs: the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) Program, the American Rescue Plan (ARP), and Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act grants.

Measures of relief, coverage of payroll, and number of grants relative to establishments show that the Midwest and South generally performed higher than the West and Northeast. The report also found that the Arts and Entertainment sector was comparatively successful at securing PPP funding, receiving the fourth-highest levels of PPP dollars relative to total sector pay ahead of sectors such as manufacturing, retail, and transportation.

“The arts and culture community benefited from a wide array of federal pandemic relief funding programs, which had different structures, sources, eligibility criteria and application guidelines. We wanted to see what these programs amounted to and where the funding flowed as a first step toward understanding their impact,” explains Dr. Zannie Voss, one of the authors of the report and director of SMU DataArts. “The results were staggering and drive home the critical role the federal government played in ensuring that arts and culture continue to serve and engage all communities.”

In the coming months, SMU DataArts will continue to explore the logistics, impact, and potential equity considerations around the distribution of funds to support the arts and culture field in the United States.


Download the Report (PDF)



SMU DataArts, the National Center for Arts Research, is a project of the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University. The mission of SMU DataArts is to provide and engage both organizations and individuals with the evidence-based insights needed to collectively build strong, vibrant, and equitable arts communities. Its research efforts range from academic papers published in leading journals, applied research undertaken with community partners, and actionable insights shared directly with arts practitioners. Its programs provide business intelligence tools and resources to help arts leaders leverage data to answer critical management questions and connect research analyses to their own work. Recent publications include research reports on emergence from the COVID-19 crisis; the alchemy that drives high performing arts organizations of color; audience diversity, equity and inclusion in large performing arts organizations; impact of investments made in diverse creative communities; and more.




Emma England

Communications Manager