Battered by pandemic, Utah's arts and culture industry preps for return

Posted at 5:51 PM, Apr 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-01 18:19:29-04

SALT LAKE CITY — According to data from Y2 Analytics, Utah's arts and culture industry suffered some of the biggest losses during the pandemic. The industry lost more than $76.5 million, and more than 25,000 workers lost their jobs in the last year — the vast majority being gig and independent contract workers.

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The data was compiled as part of a recent survey commissioned by the Utah Cultural Alliance and conducted by Y2 on the community's comfort when it comes to the return of live and in-person entertainment. Y2 surveyed more than one thousand people around the state and found that people are currently less comfortable going to live entertainment or cultural events than visiting retail shops and restaurants, but over half surveyed said they anticipate feeling more comfortable in the next six months.

"We really see that hesitancy dissipate over the next three to six months," said Y2 Analytics' Vice President of Research, Kyrene Gibb. "With 90 percent of voters being interested in returning within the next year."

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Gibb said COVID-19 case counts, vaccination rates and public health policies are largely driving the hesitancy in the community. Y2 found that respondents are currently most comfortable with outdoor events and activities, and are even more open to outdoor events as we move further into the summer.

"Certainly, there's some signs that we are going to rebound," Gibbs added. "Voters are eager to reengage and spend more participating in these activities going forward."

So, what can arts and culture venues do now to get more people comfortable with live and in-person programming? Y2's findings suggest that sanitization of facilities has the biggest impact on consumer confidence.

"That definitely is top of mind and something that we would recommend based on these findings that is a practice that's continued at least for the next year," Gibbs said.

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The survey also found that people are most excited for the return of festivals, cultural events and parades, with plays and live theater performances falling not far behind.

"We see that people are comfortable in restaurants where you get kind of closer, and you take your mask off," said Wendi Hassan, Executive Director of the Cache Valley Center for the Arts. "Sitting in a theater a couple of seats away with a mask on is just as safe. So, if you have missed this come back! This is the time to start to return, and there are things happening."

CLICK HERE for a full list of Utah arts and culture events.