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To Prevent a Collapse of the Region’s Creative Economy and to Spur Economic Recovery, the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance Calls for $20 Million in Relief Funding & Robust Support for Tourism Marketing in the FY22 City of Philadelphia Budget

Building off its COVID-19 Economic Impact Report from March, the Cultural Alliance calls for this bold action as it reports new data reflecting the dire risk facing arts and culture organizations across the region.

May 25, 2021 (PHILADELPHIA, PA) – The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance (Cultural Alliance) today called on the City of Philadelphia to provide $20 million in relief funding for the arts and culture sector, which finds itself on the financial brink due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This call from the Cultural Alliance for an emergency FY22 City of Philadelphia budget allocation comes in tandem with a supplemental data analysis from the Cultural Alliance’s COVID-19 Economic Impact Report, which shows just how perilous these next few months are for arts and culture organizations, even as COVID-19 restrictions lift on June 11. 

This analysis was conducted in May 2021 using the results from our two COVID-19 surveys, which were conducted in November 2020 and February 2021. These surveys provided current data, which has now been compared against baseline figures and models built from the Cultural Alliance’s previous studies on economic impact (Agenda: Prosperity in 2017 and previous Prosperity reports) and organizational health (Portfolio 2015 and previous versions). Key findings include:

  • When the 273 participating organizations in the COVID-19 Economic Impact Report were asked how long they would be able to continue operating on current income, with no additional or extraordinary funding support, those responding “Less than 12 months” included:

    • 70% of BIPOC-led arts and culture organizations.
    • 59% of Philadelphia-based arts and culture organizations outside of Center City
    • 46% of Center City-based arts and culture organizations


*The Cultural Alliance defines Center City as the footprint between Washington Avenue and Spring Garden Street and from the Delaware River to the Schuylkill River.


  • 29,000 full time jobs (FTEs)– accounting for both direct and indirect jobs generated in the sector – are now missing from Philadelphia’s regional economy. In 2019-2020, arts and culture accounted for 58,679 FTEs. Today, it accounts for 29,701 FTEs – half of what it created just 14 months ago.

  • Audience spending in the 5-county Philadelphia region by arts and cultural attendees has plummeted in one year from $892 million in 2019-2020 to $208 million in 2020-21, which reflects a 77% decline year-over-year.

    • This audience spending decline accounts for 16,216 of the FTE job losses above.
    • This spending is inclusive of meals before or after an arts and culture event, ground transportation, overnight hotel accommodations and ancillary spending.(Note: This excludes spending on event tickets and admissions themselves, which are included in figures about effects on arts and cultural organizations.)
  • The precipitous drop in audience spending in arts and culture has a dramatic impact in other critical hospitality sectors beyond arts and culture as evidenced below:


Audience Spending




 Meals Before/After an Arts & Culture Event



 Ground Transportation



 Overnight Lodging (One Night Only)



 All Other (Childcare, Souvenirs,  Refreshments During Event,   Clothing/Accessories, etc.)




  • The total economic loss from COVID-19 on the arts and culture sector in the 5-county Philadelphia region – inclusive of direct and indirect economic impact – is $2.33 billion. (2019-2020: $4.27B v. 2020-2021: $1.9B). This is a decline of 55% of arts and cultural organizations’ impact on their communities.


“Our advocacy in these past weeks has focused on the full restoration of the Philadelphia Cultural Fund (PCF), which remains absolutely imperative in this next budget cycle,” said Priscilla M. Luce, Interim President and CEO of the Cultural Alliance.  “However, as we reviewed this additional economic impact data, what became clear was the grave potential for the region’s creative economy to collapse.  Small and mid-sized arts and culture organizations are particularly at-risk to cease operations over the next 12-18 months and such losses will only make worse the growing workforce issue arts and culture faces.  Individual artists as well as contract and gig workers continue to suffer from a lack of emergency support and resources. And now, with only half of the FTE jobs created by our arts and culture community today as compared to one year ago, we will no doubt see further creative flight to cities that are investing in the arts as part of their economic recovery from COVID-19.  New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles are leaning into arts and culture, leveraging the inherent creativity of the sector, for ambitious public art projects, workforce development and innovative programs that deliver critical social programming. These peer cities are boldly investing millions of dollars into their creative economies while ours teeters on the edge. We cannot stand by quietly when the Philadelphia region’s creative economy is not recognized as the essential component of our overall economy that it is. More must be done to facilitate the economic survival and recovery of arts and culture, and it must be done now, when billions of stimulus dollars are available to the City through the federal government. $20 million in relief funding does not guarantee that every arts and culture organization will survive but it does give the creative economy a fighting chance – and runway – to rebound as we emerge from the pandemic.”    

In the initial COVID-19 Economic Impact Report, issued in March, the Cultural Alliance estimated the total revenue loss for the sector since the pandemic began at $371.7 million. At that time, 41% of responding organizations (102 organizations) reported that they were not likely to survive beyond Fall 2021 on current contributed and earned income streams. 72% of the 102 organizations designated as “at-risk” by the Cultural Alliance have budgets under $1 million and 74 of these organizations are in the City of Philadelphia.

In addition to its call for $20 million of emergency economic relief for the arts and culture sector, the Cultural Alliance also called on the City to significantly fund tourism marketing efforts, which would spur economic recovery across the entire hospitality sector, including in arts and culture, which is an essential spoke in Philadelphia’s tourism wheel.

“Although we have tried to make comparisons to previous economic downturns in charting a path forward, our data clearly shows that COVID-19 has been far more destructive to arts and culture, and subsequently to tourism and hospitality, than 9/11 or the Great Recession,” said Luce. “Relief funding and tourism marketing cannot be an either-or choice for the city.  It must be both.  We need relief funding to stabilize organizations and our workforce so that we can be fully open.  And if we are open, we must actively communicate that as a city – and as a sector – to residents and tourists alike. Arts and culture stands ready to help tell a story of resilience as part of Philadelphia’s destination marketing efforts. But we cannot do that if the creative economy is not stabilized, and tourism marketing is treated as a ‘nice to have’ not a ‘need to have’ in the FY 22 Budget.”

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About Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance

Established in 1972, the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance is the region’s leading arts and cultural advocacy, research and marketing organization. Our mission is to “lead, strengthen and amplify the voices of a cultural community that ignites creativity, inspires people and is essential for a healthy region.” Our membership includes more than 450 organizations ranging from museums and dance companies to community art centers, historic sites, music ensembles and zoos. For more information on the Cultural Alliance, please visit