Friday, May 24, 2024

The Central Square Theater was one of 16 area arts organization taking part in a survey looking at a post-coronavirus culture landscape. (Photo: Marc Levy)

If arts organization can stick it out until the world feel safe again from coronavirus – including access to a vaccine, easy testing and treatments that basically end new Covid-19 infections – audiences for theater, dance, music and other arts will be back, according to a survey by the international arts consulting firm WolfBrown.

The survey, called the Audience Outlook Monitor, talked to more than 3,000 area arts goers from 16 local cultural organizations, including Harvard’s American Repertory Theater; the Central Square Theater; The Dance Complex; the Museum of Science; and plenty more organizations across the river, from ArtsBoston to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

“We have a long way to go,” ArtsBoston executive director Catherine Peterson said. “But as this survey tells us, when they are ready, they’ll come back with gusto, enthusiasm and at levels of engagement and support at least as good – or better – than before the pandemic.”

While an overall 91 percent of respondents said they were “very” or “somewhat eager” to return to local performances and events, nearly the same amount – 89 percent – indicated on the survey they’d need to feel safe first.

Expectations for that ranged from the 28 percent hoping to be back at cultural events in three months, or as soon as October, to the 65 percent who thought it’d be more like seven months, or February. The way WolfBrown looks at it, a majority of 55 percent “didn’t expect to return to cultural events until at least January,” and the types of activities expected to be visited first were museums, outdoor events and community art spaces or studios.

Maybe it’s the quarantine talking, but from there the news starts to look even better:

bullet-gray-small Eighty-eight percent of respondents said the pandemic would have no substantial impact on their long-term attendance at cultural events: three-quarters expect to attend the same number of events; 13 percent plan to attend more.

bullet-gray-small Eighty-nine percent indicated they planned to spend as much money or more on subscriptions, tickets, memberships and admissions. The average respondent said their spending would remain at 99 percent of previous levels.

bullet-gray-small Ninety-six percent of those who gave money to arts organizations indicated they would make similar or larger donations in the future.

“As we continue to weather this public health crisis. arts organizations and performing arts in particular are in a uniquely vulnerable position,” Cambridge vice mayor Alanna Mallon said Monday. “The sector which is a huge economic driver here in Cambridge and Central Square specifically. Without the arts, there is not a meaningful economic recovery.”

The arts sector provides 5,000 jobs to people in Cambridge and drives $175 million in economic activity each year, Mallon said.

Greater Boston arts goers have historically outnumbered sports fans four times over and outspent them – and every other type of tourist – in restaurants, retail stores and a variety of other places, Peterson said, citing an earlier study, which is why “it’s in everyone’s interest to protect Boston’s cultural assets until they can welcome audiences again.”