Supporting the Creative Sector and Arts Workers


The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating to artists and creative sector workers in the United States.

Since the beginning of the pandemic a year ago, arts job losses have exceeded those in the hospitality sector, which is also among the hardest hit industries. In a recent study of over 600 California creative businesses by Californians for the Arts, “79% of respondents have eliminated and/or reduced programs and 16% are not confident that if programs cannot resume before April 1 that they will be able to survive.”

As a result of this disaster, a new arts activism has been born.  Arts advocates have been successful in lobbying for additional stimulus funding for the creative sector and arts workers have organized and become politically active in new ways to protect their careers.

The term “arts worker” is quickly gaining ground, especially among those lobbying state and federal government for more relief funding to arts and culture organizations as well as for changes in policies to protect and support arts freelancers, aka gig workers. There’s reason to proudly claim the arts worker identity: the U.S. Arts and Culture sector – prior to the pandemic – was an $878 billion industry that employed 5 million people.

In the past few months, many new studies on–and resources for–enhancing arts worker support and safety nets have been published and created. In addition to what we all we know (and feel!) regarding how essential the arts and creativity are for social connection and conversation, learning, and enriching our lives, this energized advocacy has led to new designated funding from Congress, hearings in California about the contributions of arts workers to the state economy, and an emerging pilot program by the State of California for a new Creative Corp. 

To learn more about this movement or how to get involved, we have created a short list of recommended reading and resources.



California Creative Corps

The Governor’s FY21-22 Budget proposal includes $15 million one-time General Fund to support a statewide pilot program, California Creative Corps, to employ arts workers to inspire safe and healthy behavior across California’s diverse populations. Read the Californians for the Arts press release about the Corps HERE.

“Arts Workers in California: Creating a More Inclusive Social Contract to Meet Arts Workers’ and Other Independent Contractors’ Needs”

This study was commissioned by the Center for Cultural Innovation with support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and was published by the Urban Institute in January 2021. Read the full study HERE.



“Arts Workers are building a labor movement to save a creative economy in peril

This article by Peter Marks appeared in the January 8, 2021 edition of the Washington Post. Read the article HERE.

“The pandemic, it seems, has given activist arts workers an opportunity to develop new skills, such as connecting with influential Washington lawmakers and setting up a tax-exempt lobbying and policymaking organization.”

Peter Marks, Washington Post

“The Arts Are in Crisis. Here’s How Biden Can Help. 

This article by Jason Farago appeared in the January 13, 2021 edition of the New York Times, with the subtitle “The pandemic has decimated the livelihoods of those who work in the arts. How can the new administration intervene and make sure it doesn’t happen again? A critic offers an ambitious plan.” Read the article HERE.

“Professional creative artists are facing unemployment at rates well above the national average — more than 52 percent of actors and 55 percent of dancers were out of work in the third quarter of the year, at a time when the national unemployment rate was 8.5 percent. Several hundred independent music venues have closed; art galleries and dance companies have shuttered.”

Jason Farago, New York Times

Be An Arts Hero Campaign

Be an #ArtsHero is an intersectional grassroots campaign comprised of Arts & Culture workers, Unions, and institutions in the United States pushing the Senate to allocate proportionate relief to the Arts & Culture sector of the American economy. Learn more or get involved HERE.

Save Our Stages Campaign

The National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) organized to propose the Save Our Stages (SOS) Act, which advocated for relief funding for live performance venues that had to temporarily close their doors due the pandemic. They were successful, and the SOS Act is now the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program by the Small Business Administration (SBA), who will be administering the program. Learn more about NIVA or the SOS Act HERE.