Conducted by the international arts consulting firm WolfBrown, and sponsored locally by the non-profit arts marketing and advocacy group ArtsBoston, the Audience Outlook Monitor (AOM) is a longitudinal survey to keep tabs on arts attendees thoughts, concerns and intentions as the pandemic — and the state’s reopening guidelines — evolve.

The pandemic has been devastating for arts organizations hit from all sides. The survey proves what we know arts organizations and artists are already grappling with — it’s going to be a long road back and it won’t be an easy one. Pre-COVID, the cultural sector brought $2 billion of direct and secondary annual economic impact to Greater Boston. The arts employed as many people as the pre-pandemic retail industry, and kept the city a vibrant place to live, work and visit. In the past, arts goers outnumbered sports fans four times over. And arts visitors spent more money in restaurants, retail stores and other places than any other category of tourist.

We are an industry that is critical to the state’s economic comeback and overall emotional recovery.


The Audience Outlook Monitor has been tracking audience attitudes and behaviors throughout the pandemic.


Update for January 10, 2022: We thought our last Covid-19 study briefing would be in November, but then there was Omicron. Several national cohorts managed by WolfBrown partners at AMS Planning & Research deployed surveys in mid-December well after the ominous cloud of Omicron appeared, but before infection rates skyrocketed. This “bonus” briefing examines survey results for December 2021, the curious bifurcation of attitudes about going out, and the implications for arts programs over the next few months. (30 minutes).

Watch Recording


  • Audiences Are Returning
    • 57% of respondents say they have already begun attending in-person programs; a 30% increase from September 2021
    • Hesitancy to return until January or later has reduced by 20% from September (45%) to November (25%); a majority of whom don’t plan to return until April 2022 or thereafter
  • Post Vaccination Expectations
    • 50% of audiences now say that mask and vax requirements are the minimum level of health safety measures they require to attend an indoor event right now (up from 36% in Sept
    • For the performing arts, 69% of respondents want proof of vax or negative test results and 60% want mask mandates. 79% reported that safety protocols are no longer deal breakers for them
    • For museums, 67% of respondents want masks indoors (down from 81% in Sep), 65% are more likely to attend when vaccine requirements are in place, and 70% indicated there are no “deal breakers” regarding their attendance
    • 36% of respondents (the largest segment) say they would attend outdoor events under any circumstances
  • High levels of Trust
    • 81% of respondents trust arts organizations to implement and enforce health safety rules, up from 72% in September


Sept 15, 2021: Greater Boston Arts & Cultural Organizations Prioritizing Safety
The organization and venues listed here have implemented protocols requiring proof of vaccination for all audiences members, or proof of a negative COVID test when a proof of vaccination is not possible, along with other safety protocols including mask wearing. See who’s signed on.

August 19, 2021: 14 Theater Companies Announce Requirement Of Vaccine Or Proof Of Negative COVID-19 Test
A group of 14 theaters in Greater Boston will now require audiences to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test in order to be admitted for in-person productions, and masks must also be worn. Read more.

June 29, 2021: Latest Survey Shows Audiences are Ready to Return Earlier Than Before

Read Press Release

June 10, 2021: Roadmap To Recovery & Resilience
Q&A with Dr. Joe Allen, Director Healthy Buildings Program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Ryan McKittrick, Director of Artistic Programs and Dramaturg at American Repertory Theater.

Watch Recording

May 13, 2021: Reopening the Arts in Greater Boston webinar
presented by ArtsBoston // Alan Brown, WolfBrown

Watch Recording

Access Slides

Localized Learning Outcomes

Specific survey questions include:

  • Current and planned attendance behaviors at indoor and outdoor arts and cultural activities
  • Comfort level engaging in related activities requiring public interaction (dining, using public transport, etc.)
  • Attitudes on vaccines and safety protocols upon returning to live performance
  • At-home arts participation including engagement with digital content
  • Anticipated spending in relation to pre-crisis levels
  • Anticipated impact on philanthropic giving
  • Attitudes about going to venues if distancing requirements persevere

Timeline / Methodology

ArtsBoston is supporting the participation of a cohort of 15 arts organizations of varying genres/sizes and surveys were sent to their Massachusetts residents audiences. Phase I of the research ran June 2020 – November 2020. Phase II runs April 2021 – November 2021. Results are analyzed and shared in comparison to other participating cities, including Chicago, New York, and San Francisco over time to demonstrate changes over time and help decision making in real-time.

Participating Arts Organizations in the Boston Cohort

Actors' Shakespeare Project Logo
American Repertory Theater Logo
ArtsEmerson Logo
Celebrity Series of Boston Logo
Boston Symphony Orchestra Logo
Central Square Theater
The Dance Complex Logo
Emerson Colonial Theatre
Global Arts Live Logo
Handel and Haydn Society Logo
Huntington Theatre Company logo
Lyric Stage Company Logo
Museum of Science, Boston logo

Many thanks to Liberty Mutual Foundation for its support of Phase II and the City of Boston, Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture for its support of the Phase I cohort participation.