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Local arts groups worried about financial fallout from COVID-19

Lara Smith, managing director of Dad's Garage (Special: Twitter)

By Maria Saporta

Arts and cultural organizations in metro Atlanta and the state are seeking to shine the spotlight on how the coronavirus is negatively impacting the creative sector.

Lara Smith, managing director of Dad’s Garage, led an effort to compile information from 59 nonprofits to gather data on how they were being impacted.

Lara Smith, managing director of Dad’s Garage (Special: Twitter)

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.

“We are using this data to start a conversation about the need for arts nonprofits to be included in any economic relief packages,” Smith wrote in an email. “Arts organizations are set to receive roughly $300 million – a small fraction of the $2 trillion sum—from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.”

At the same time, the DeKalb Entertainment Commission is partnering with C4 Atlanta to launch what it calls “the most significant creative industry survey across the state of Georgia” to assess the impact of COVID-19 on the state’s creative sector.

The survey is being developed to understand and define statistical data that shows the challenges facing entertainment individuals and organizations seeking to recover from the disruption caused by COVID-19.

People are being asked to respond to the 23-question survey in a link that will remain open until 11:59 on April 24.

Meanwhile, the survey conducted by Dad’s Garage and the ARC, released the following findings:

* Organizations are looking at average losses of $25,000 to more than $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. 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.

* 19 percent of arts nonprofits in Atlanta aren’t sure they are going to make it, and they may close permanently. Another 34 percent are only going to make it if they get funding from the U.S. Small Business Administration (or something similar).

*  Those surveyed indicated they needed needing at least $2.5 million in loans, with 65 percent saying they will need long-term loans, mainly because they do not believe they will receive SBA funding.

On a positive note:

* 64 percent of organizations started this 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.

* 30 percent of respondents have not made any staffing changes, as they have been able to maintain current payroll and contractor payments.

To get the raw data and the participating arts group, click here.

“We believe the arts are important to a healthy economy, supporting and amplifying a variety of other industries,” Smith said. “It’s important that we let the public know our value, especially right now.”

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


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