Career Opportunities in Mid-Size Arts and Heritage Organizations, Before, During, and After COVID-19

Mid-size museums, theaters, and tourist attractions in Washington, D.C., employ a wide variety of personnel, ranging from performers to graphic designers to public relations professionals. They also provide jobs that almost every business has, such as office managers, customer service representatives, and security officers. To put it mildly, the arts and heritage sector in DC has always been a major source of employment opportunities.

Career opportunities Midsize arts

Prior to COVID-19, careers in this sector were thriving. In the midst of the pandemic, not so much. But what does the future hold? Let’s take a look at how career opportunities in mid-size D.C. arts and heritage organizations have fluctuated as a result of COVID-19.

Before the pandemic

The arts are an integral thread in the fabric of our nation’s capital. This vital sector was a hotbed of employment opportunities prior to the pandemic. From historical sites to art galleries to live concert venues, anyone looking for employment in this industry had a pretty good chance of getting what they wanted.

The nation had approximately 5.2 million jobs in the arts and heritage sector in 2017, and that figure increased by 1.2 percent in 2019. In D.C. alone, arts and cultural employment in 2019 accounted for 8.8 percent of the economy. Then, the pandemic struck, and everything changed.

During the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic was devastating to D.C., just as it was everywhere else. More than 43 percent of D.C. businesses were forced to permanently close, or at least temporarily shut down in 2020. Concurrently, more than 62,000 fine and performing arts jobs in DC were lost during the first half of 2020.

This caused many in this industry to contemplate major career changes. Even with emergency relief funds in place, making ends meet during the pandemic became an epic struggle. Performers who were used to flourishing on stage were now forced to sell insurance or load boxes in a warehouse. Those who had spent most of their days giving guided tours of museums were now delivering groceries. There was simply no market for creativity during a time when most people were focused solely on social distancing and surviving.  

Looking to the future    

Things may not be back to normal quite yet, but strides are certainly being made in that direction. Some mid-size arts and heritage organizations have reopened to the public at 25-50 percent of capacity. This also means they are only using 25-50 percent of their normal staff, however, those that have survived the pandemic should be fully operational in the near future.

Reopening is not as simple as just turning the “closed” sign around. Strategic planning is critical. For example, The National Endowment for the Arts reports that during the reopening process “Aligning arts programming with local community needs is paramount, whether through indoor or outdoor programming, virtual arts engagement, or a mix of opportunities.” They also recommend consulting with a team of public health professionals before going full throttle, in order to reopen in the safest ways possible. The Gala Hispanic Theatre has their COVID-19 safety policies posted online for all potential patrons to see before they purchase tickets. This is a wise move for any organization that interacts with the public.

Arts and heritage organizations are used to being creative and flexible. But they really had to put those skills to the test when the pandemic emerged. Finding new ways to stay afloat when social distancing and shutdowns were flooding the city was a challenge. But for most mid-size organizations in D.C., the challenge was met. Historical sites, theaters, museums, and festivals are finally beginning to color the streets of the capital with vibrancy and hope.

Looking for a great event, visit The Washington Post’s Restart the Arts hub!

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