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Is the performing arts job market in Illinois bouncing back from the impact of COVID-19?

Analysis of Illinois Performing Arts Sector Post-Pandemic: Growth and Challenges

The performing arts sector in Illinois is still struggling to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with employment levels in the industry not yet back to pre-pandemic levels. However, a new state-level analysis from the National Endowment for the Arts reveals some positive trends for the overall arts sector in Illinois.

While about 1,000 fewer people are employed by performing arts groups in Illinois compared to 2019, the state’s overall arts and culture sector is experiencing growth that outpaces that of other states in the Midwest and beyond. In 2022, the arts and culture sector contributed to 3.5% of the total state economy and employed more than 216,000 people.

Despite the growth in the sector, wages in the performing arts industry have dropped since 2020 and have not fully recovered. The median wage for performers in Illinois has decreased, indicating that even with the sector leading the nation in growth, there are still challenges to be addressed.

Marissa Lynn Jones, the executive director at the League of Chicago Theaters, highlights the changes in the local theater scene, including shifts in season structures and decreased audience attendance. Some performing arts groups have been struggling even before the pandemic, with declines in corporate sponsorships and subscriptions.

Joshua Davis-Ruperto, executive director of the Illinois Arts Council, emphasizes the importance of responding to the new needs of audiences and finding new funding models to support performing arts organizations. Both Davis-Ruperto and Lynn Jones agree that focusing on adapting to the current landscape and being creative in their approach is key to the success of the performing arts moving forward.

As theaters in Chicago continue to navigate the challenges brought on by the pandemic, the industry is looking towards new audiences and stories that reflect the diversity of their communities. Despite the setbacks, there is optimism for the future of the arts in Illinois as organizations work to overcome the challenges and continue to innovate in the post-pandemic world.


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