ArtsMemphis Releases New Data Reflecting State of the Arts, Illustrating Continued Need for Industry Support

MEMPHIS—This week, ArtsMemphis has released new data on behalf of the local arts organizations it has funded, painting a picture of the continued need for community support of the arts sector.

Following a $20 million loss in 2020, local arts organizations collectively project a 25% decrease in 2021 income compared to 2019’s pre-pandemic numbers. 

“Our arts organizations have made strategic shifts in operations and programs in order to continue harnessing an audience and providing artists a platform to create,” said Elizabeth Rouse, President & CEO of ArtsMemphis. “Hope and anticipation for a sense of recovery are brimming, but this recovery period requires major support. We’ll need community support to return to the economic powerhouse position the nonprofit arts sector was for the county prior to the pandemic.”

Financial contributions from individuals increased in 2020 and continues to do so in 2021. However, local arts organizations experienced a decrease in corporate and foundation giving, and current projections indicate a 15% reduction in earned revenue for  2020-21 over 2019.

“As we continue to modify our strategic plan, we’re putting our earned revenue in a separate column,” shared Hattiloo Theatre’s Ekundayo Bandele with a group of ArtsMemphis donors last week. “We’re not counting on it. However, we are setting ourselves up for the long haul so we may remain a strong cultural resource for our community and one that is at the tip of the spear for the black theatre network.”

“Through it all, we have learned the importance of being able to adapt by tapping into our creativity and innovation,” said Marcellus Harper of Collage Dance. “Our brand-new building, funded 100% by philanthropy, including ArtsMemphis, celebrates exactly that. We can’t wait to invite Memphis to experience it in-person.”

Arts organizations have reported an 80% reduction in the number of artists engaged in 2020 versus 2019, resulting in 8,570 arts jobs lost. Layoffs or furloughs were reported by 53% of arts organizations, impacting 560 positions, or 44% of the arts sector workforce.

“We believe in the integral relationship between the audience and the performer,” continued Ekundayo Bandele. “So we’re working tirelessly to create a safe space to reestablish that relationship while continuing to employ black artists in Memphis.”

In addition to distributing $2.8 million in fiscal year 2020 to 137 individual artists and 71 organizations, ArtsMemphis hosted over 30 convenings of the arts sector. The organization provided grantees with assistance in CARES funding opportunities and proactively scheduled 1:1 check-ins with organizations to offer counsel and identify opportunities. 

“This pandemic’s emergency and resiliency stages have brought temporary relief and a newfound appreciation for the role arts play in our lives,” said Rouse. “But as we all reinvent, we must reinvest.”

ArtsMemphis will award its latest round of operating support grants this quarter.

To make a gift, visit

ABOUT ARTSMEMPHIS. ArtsMemphis, the Mid-South’s primary arts funder, invested $2.8 million in 71 arts groups and 137 artists last year. During the COVID pandemic, ArtsMemphis has elevated its role as convener and connector for the arts sector by helping arts organizations maintain, rework business plans, create virtual arts events and develop reopening protocols. ArtsMemphis works to sustain Memphis’ world-renowned cultural vitality and strengthen local communities through the arts by driving arts support and investing in organizations and artists. Learn more at


Share |

One gift supports 68 arts organizations and 145 artists

Donate Today