Arts & Creativity Field Scan

Arts & Creativity Field Scan: Introduction to the study

At the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in the U.S., six grantmakers commissioned TDC to study the unfolding impacts of the Covid crisis on arts and creativity organizations. In addition to the impacts themselves, the study also seeks to understand the ways organizations are responding to the crisis and the thinking behind these responses. Today, we are excited to launch a series of posts that summarize findings and lessons from the study thus far. This introductory post gives an overview of the series and provides important background on the study and its methodology. If you would like to jump immediately to our first findings post, please click here.

Upcoming posts

Our ultimate aim is to provide the field with grounding data about the recent past and directional data about the future to inform the difficult strategic choices ahead. Over the next two months, we will publish eight to ten posts answering pressing questions we heard from participating organizations and grantmaker partners in the course of our research. The questions include:

• What’s the current state of arts and creativity organizations?

• What could the current state mean for the future?

• What characteristics led to major differences in how organizations experienced and responded to the crisis?

• What characteristics led to smaller differences in how organizations experienced and responded to the crisis?

• What, if anything, are organizations doing in relation to racial equity?

• What, if anything, are organizations doing to support artists?

• What, if anything, helped organizations succeed over the last nine months?

For each question, our posts will explore what we observed through our research and state why we think the observations are meaningful today and in the future. We will also highlight quantitative and qualitative data points that we find illuminating. Please note that these posts are written from TDC’s point of view as researchers and do not represent the opinions of our grantmaker partners.

Engage with us!

We are publishing findings in short posts (instead of in a long, formal report) with the hope that this format makes the information more digestible and sparks conversation. We are excited to read and engage with your comments and questions. For instance, we look forward to hearing:

• What clarifying questions you have about what we’ve written.

• Where you would like more information behind a point we make.

• How our summary findings align or conflict with your own experience.

• How you’re interpreting the findings and their implications.

• What questions remain for you after reading the posts.

We will do our best to respond to each comment and question, as appropriate.

The remainder of this post briefly summarizes important background on the study approach, methodology, and characteristics of the organizations included in the study. We encourage you to read it as it outlines where the findings we’ll discuss in future posts come from.

Study approach

The six grantmakers supporting the study are Barr Foundation, Boston Mayor’s Office of Arts & Culture, Linde Family Foundation, The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, Wallace Foundation, and William Penn Foundation. The Kresge Foundation joined the effort for an upcoming phase of research. TDC, a Boston-based nonprofit consulting and research firm, conducted the study.

Three research questions guided our effort:

(1) What are the current and projected impacts of the crises on organizations and ecosystems?

(2) What is the thinking behind organizations’ responses?

(3) How do these answers change overtime?

The study sample is comprised of organizations that offer arts- or creativity-based programming. Importantly, the sample goes beyond a narrow definition of “arts organization” and includes organizations from other subsectors (for instance, education, social service, and community development) that have robust arts or creativity programming.

Most sample organizations are current or recent grantees of the grantmaker partners. We added non-grantee organizations to increase the representation of small organizations and BIPOC-focused organizations. For more information on characteristics of the sample, see the end of this post.


We have completed the first phase of research which included a survey, interviews, and a scan of form 990 data. Between the survey and interviews, we have been in conversation with a total of 314 unique organizations.

In early 2021 we plan to conduct another survey and more interviews to understand how impacts and responses continue to evolve.

In reviewing the methodology, it’s important to map the confluence of crises we have experienced nationally and globally onto the study calendar. We began designing the study at the end of March with a primary focus on the Covid pandemic. While our first survey wave was out in the field, the Movement for Black Lives gained international attention in response to the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, and the national consciousness shifted towards the ongoing crisis of systemic racism. As we entered the interview phase of the study in September and October, political turmoil was peaking prior to the 2020 elections. While the Covid crisis has remained the primary lens of our study, the multiple crises are interconnected, had meaningful impacts on our study sample, and are therefore reflected in our findings and the questions we will explore in upcoming posts.

Characteristics of the sample

Participants by geography:

• Greater Boston: 29%

• Massachusetts (not including Greater Boston): 32%

• Greater Philadelphia: 30%

• Other National: 10%

Participants by discipline:

• Performing arts (producer, presenter, or venue): 40%

• Museums and galleries (gallery, visual arts, museum): 15%

• Schools and creation spaces (school, studio, makerspace, creativity lab): 12%

• Place-based (community, neighborhood, public park, other open space): 14%

• Other (media arts, multidisciplinary arts, other): 20%

Participants by budget size:

• Small (Under $500K): 42%

• Medium ($500K – $5M): 42%

• Large ($5M+): 16%

Participants with a self-identified mission emphasis on youth: 20%

Participants with a self-identified mission emphasis on one or multiple identity groups*: 21%

*The identity groups named in the sample fall under categories of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and disability

To advance to the next post in the series click here.