Creative Economy in Chicago and COVID-19 Impact

The Creative Economy is Big Business in Chicago

$3.2 Billion

total Industry spending by Chicago nonprofit arts and culture organizations and audiences each year.1

$2.3 Billion

economic impact of spending by Chicago nonprofit arts and cultural organizations and audiences per year.1


(full time) supported by Chicago arts and culture nonprofits.1

$336 Million

revenue generated to local and state government by Chicago arts and culture nonprofit each year.1

COVID-19 is Devastating Chicago’s Creative Economy

$4.7 billion in cumulative losses for Chicago’s creative industries through July 2020 (est.).2

66% of unemployed artists that self reported are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) versus 52% of white artists.5

86,825 workers in Chicago’s creative industry made unemployed by COVID-19 through July 2020 (est.).2

20% more revenue loss among smaller BIPOC arts and culture organizations compared to their predominantly white counterparts.3

$437,230 average financial loss per Chicago arts and cultural organization , far higher than the national average loss of $30,000 per arts and culture non-profit.3

Chicago #2 among peer regions in terms of annual percentage decrease in creative occupations since the onset of COVID-19.6

337% annual increase

in unemployment insurance (UI) claims in arts, entertainment, sports, and media occupations  in the Chicago area since December 2019. This is far higher than the annual increase in UI claims across all industries and occupations in the Chicago area (292%).4

8.5% Decrease

in shares of giving for arts and culture in 2020, the largest such decline in the last decade. 2020 saw record levels of giving; however, in areas like education, human services, and the environment (Giving USA)

40% decrease in arts, entertainment, and recreation employees in the Chicago area since December last year – a larger percentage change than  accommodation, food service, education, construction, health care, and retail.7

51% annual decrease in in theater employees in Chicago area, revealing that performing artists are most adversely affected by the pandemic.7

The Creative Sector Makes Communities Stronger

90% of Americans believe that arts and cultural facilities are important for their community’s quality of life.9

72% of Americans believe the arts unify our communities, regardless of age, race, or ethnicity.9

$50.56 is the amount each Chicago nonprofit arts and cultural event attendee spends beyond the ticket cost on meals, retail, parking, lodging, local transportation, childcare, and souvenirs. These dollars provide vital income to local merchants, energize the downtown, and pay salaries and wages in non-arts sectors. This is almost $2 billion in ancillary spending in Chicago directly because of cultural events.1

Creative Workers Stand Ready to Aid Recovery

76% of artists have used their art to raise moral and create community cohesion during the pandemic.10

83% of creative workers are ready to put their creative practice to use as part of national recovery.10

89% of Illinois arts nonprofits have been delivering artistic content to raise community spirits during social distancing/quarantine.7

The Creative Engine Can Power America’s Recovery!

1. Americans for the Arts, Arts & Economic Prosperity 5: The Economic Impact of Nonprofit Arts and Cultural Organizations and Their Audiences in the City of
Chicago, 2017.
2. Richard Florida and Michael Seman, Lost Art: Measuring COVID-19’s Devastating Impact on America’s Creative Economy, Metropolitan Policy Program, Brookings, August 2020, p.17.
3. Arts Alliance Illinois, “Arts Alliance COVID Impact Survey Data,” accessed
February 1.
4. Data source: Illinois Department of Employment Security. Analysis: Arts
Alliance Illinois.
5. Isaac Fitzsimons, Americans for the Arts, email to Aisha Motlani, Arts Alliance, January 29, 2021.
6. Data source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Analysis: Arts Alliance Illinois. Peer regions include Boston, Cleveland, Denver, Houston, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco and are identified in J Novak-Leonard, Measuring Chicago’s (Artistically) Creative Economy, Cultural Policy Center at The University of Chicago, 2014.
7. Data source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Analysis: Arts Alliance Illinois.
8. Americans for the Arts, Americans Speak Out About The Arts in 2018: An
In-Depth Look at Perceptions and Attitudes About the Arts in America, September 2018.
9. accessed on February 15, 2021. Americans for the Arts, “The COVID-19
Impact Survey for Artists and Creative Workers,”
10. Americans for the Arts, “The Economic Impact of Coronavirus on the Arts
and Culture Sector,” accessed on February 10, 2021.