Covid-19 2022 update

Two older dogs with an inset photo of two puppies.
(Scout and Zadie pave the way, while Quigley and Quince nervously try to figure out how to get more high value treats- Visit to give a foster a furever home)

Covid-19 2022 update

Our research and policy manager reflects on bingo as a canary in the coal mine

Just over two years ago I wrote a fieldnote reflecting on my summer of working from home during the pandemic and what we were learning as a research team about how COVID was impacting the field. Much of my thinking at the time was informed by the 2020 COVID-19 Impact Survey

Some of my fieldnote in 2020 focussed on my dogs and how excited they were that I was at home. Much has changed over the past two years. Both Zadie and Scout succumbed to their liver disease earlier this year, and new foster puppies sniff out the corners where our old dogs rested. 

Dogs Scout and Zadie, Quigley and Quince
(Scout and Zadie pave the way, while Quigley and Quince nervously try to figure out how to get more high value treats- Visit to give a foster a furever home)

We’ve lost a few organizations as well this year. As other sectors have fully reopened, albeit often looking very different than they did pre-COVID, much of the  government support the arts sector was able to take advantage of has gone away. Disappearance of funding that allowed organizations to hold on through the pandemic has made reopening unrealistic for some.

2020 vs 2022: Covid impact expectations versus reality

In mid-2022 we did a check in with our operating grant clients. While a full report will not be developed from the questions we asked, comparing the results of this survey to the original 2020 survey was still interesting. 

Not all have struggled through the pandemic to the extent they expected. At the beginning of the pandemic, 7% of organizations reported they expected the pandemic impact to be so devastating they would not recover. An additional 49% reported they expected the impact to be major but survivable. In a more recent survey of operating grant clients reflecting on the 2021 year, only 2% of organizations reported they may not recover and 24% reported the financial impact of the pandemic to be major — much lower than the 49% expected.  

  How do you expect COVID-19 to impact your organization financially (asked in 2020) How much has COVID19 impacted your organization financially in 2021 (asked in 2022)
1 – Not impactful at all 0% 4%
2 – Minor 9% 21%
3 – Significant 35% 49%
4 – Major 49% 24%
5 – Devastating/may not recover 7% 2%

While most organizations reported that the pandemic had a significant impact or worse, the severity was less than many organizations anticipated. In the original survey government support had not yet been announced. While government support did not help everyone — many individual artists relied on CERB, which ended in 2020 — it certainly lessened the impact on organizations in the sector. 


One of the signs the pandemic lasted much longer than organizations had originally been planning for is the loss of AGLC (primarily casino and bingo) revenue. In a 2020 survey, 23% of organizations had reported they were concerned a bingo or casino fundraiser would be canceled, leading to potential revenue loss of up to $1.5 million. 

In a 2022 survey reflecting back on 2021, a larger 33% of organizations reported that there were bingos and casino fundraisers they had scheduled that would not be rescheduled. This represented a much larger $3.4 million in lost revenue. Bingos act as a canary in the coal mine. When bingos and casinos aren’t rescheduled because there is such a backlog of activity that new dates can’t be found, other activity is probably facing the same fate. 

In 2020, many organizations commented that they were hoping to reschedule cancelled events from 2020 to the next year, 2021. With a pandemic that dragged out longer than anyone anticipated, most organizations have given up the idea that events would be rescheduled. Artists and venues are no longer available to re-create that activity. Activity that was rescheduled was often held online, for free, instead of in person for paid audiences. The 2023 arts professionals survey will explore the long-term impact of canceled events that artists count on to earn a living. 

Other pandemic responses

When organizations were asked what actions they were taking in response to the pandemic in 2020, most organizations were cutting their artistic workforce and organizing remote working conditions for staff, and many were reducing staff, cutting salaries and using their financial reserves. Organizations in 2022 are more likely to be strategizing how to reopen safely and work with health guidelines that didn’t exist in 2020. 

Between 2020 and 2022, most organizations (78%) found they needed to be delivering programming online, for free. This was a challenge for many organizations who had not previously been delivering programming online and would not recover expenses through ticket sales for this new programming. 

  2022 Survey 2020 Survey
Communicated with customers about reopening procedures 69% 19%
Continued/ enhanced remote working for all staff. 79% 73%
Decreased marketing and communications. 31% 31%
Developed a masking policy for audiences 71%
Developed a masking policy for staff 79%
Developed a social distancing policy for audiences 66%
Developed a social distancing policy for staff 68%
Developed a vaccine policy for audiences 66%
Developed a vaccine policy for staff 69%
Discussed masking policy for audiences 74%
Discussed zoom fatigue with staff 68%
Eliminated all volunteers. 11% 25%
Held meetings with staff to share information. 86% 83%
Increased marketing and communications to calm or assure customers. 47% 46%
Offered online services or programming for free. 78% 44%
Offered paid online services or programming. 44%
Reduced creative workforce (e.g., artists). 51% 62%
Reduced or canceled travel. 64% 56%
Reduced other workforce (e.g., consultants, etc.). 31% 35%
Reduced salaries or payroll since the start of 2021. 19% 32%
Reduced staff since the start of 2021 18% 37%
Reduced volunteers. 64% 48%
Strategized reopening options 91%
Used financial reserves. 38% 40%

The challenge of reopening

Finally, as organizations reopen, they have a variety of concerns related to welcoming audiences back. While less a concern than in 2020, the primary concern organizations still have is public sentiment around mass gatherings, followed by further waves of the pandemic and fear of reduced revenue from earned income and fundraising. 

New in 2022 is a concern around disruptions due to supply chain issues bringing goods necessary for organization operations. 

  2022 Survey 2020 Survey
Public sentiment around mass gatherings. 68% 84%
Wave(s) and health restrictions  66%
Reduced revenue from earned income.  62% 78%
Reduced revenue from fundraising.  56% 77%
Social distancing  56%
Masking policy  55%
Audience vaccination policy  49%
Difficulty engaging volunteers.  49% 57%
Concerns about inability to generate sufficient revenue.  48% 72%
Staff absences due to voluntary self-isolation or caring for a loved one.  38% 31%
Reduced revenue from public funding (grants).  33% 67%
Concerns about being able to partner with schools.  32% 39%
Increased costs due to supply chain disruptions  32%
Concern about loss of donor support.  31% 57%
Staff vaccination policy/ access to rapid COVID testing  30%
Disruption of supplies or services provided by partners.  25% 35%
Concerns over low financial reserves.  23% 43%
Disruption to the supply chain of goods necessary for your organization  20%
Increased demand for services.  19% 13%
Replacing staff laid off during closure.  8% 10%

What’s next?

The concerns of 2020 shifted from immediate revenue issues as governments stepped forward to offer the support necessary for much of the sector to be able to survive a long pandemic. As those supports came into place, new concerns arose over how to generate revenue online and what protocols would be necessary to eventually have audiences return in person. 

Concerns around the pandemic will continue as a global supply chain remains disrupted and further waves of the pandemic are expected without certainty as to how audiences will respond to those. Most canceled programming will never be rescheduled — will future contracts with artists still reeling from years of lost work be less stable to account for last minute programming changes? 

While the sector moves into a recovery phase, it will be important to continue to learn about the long impacts of Covid from the organizations we support and the artists that continue to face the effects of years of lost work. 

A photo of Greg Burbidge holding his dog Scout while sitting at a desk with a keyboard.
Greg and Scout take a meeting mid pandemic, when haircuts opened up again but meetings were still on Zoom

Gregory Burbidge (he/him/his) is the research and policy manager at Calgary Arts Development. In this role he is responsible for the management of research and policy projects that support the indicators and outcomes related to Calgary Art Development’s strategic plan. This work also includes supporting the development of data and evaluative tools for use by the arts community.

Greg is the past chair of the Cultural Research Network, an international open-source community of practice for individuals doing work in arts and culture research. 

People in the office are happiest when Greg’s foster dogs Willow Peppercorn and Gertrude Peanut make appearances in the background of Zoom meetings, and they hope he settles on better names soon.

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