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.


As the current subvariant surge moves across the U.S. in slow motion, Alan’s May 23 briefing takes stock of shifts in audience sentiment about returning to cultural events. Will we see continued backsliding on key indicators of demand, or has resolve to go out strengthened? What if slower paced, seasonal surges are the new norm? This update also examines movement in feelings about masking requirements, and a marked shift in the reasons why people say they aren’t returning to live programs. (30 minutes)



While WolfBrown had planned to sunset the Audience Outlook Monitor COVID-19 Study at the end of 2021, the Omicron variant had other ideas. To help in decision making and communications, we are excited to be able to share local audience data from mid-February survey deployments by three Greater Boston organizations in addition to an East Coast aggregate (NYC, Boston, DC regional), which tracked closely to Boston findings in the first and second phases of the Audience Outlook Monitor. This next phase represents audience attitudes following the Omicron surge, and includes figures for the percentages of audiences members with booster shots, the percentages of respondents actually attending live programs, reasons for not returning, and projections for when non-returning audience members expect to return again to live events.



Sept 27, 2021: The Huntington: Reopening To Live Events Webinar

As arts and cultural organizations are re-opening with COVID safety protocols, we know there are many questions about how best to communicate with the public, training front of house staff, and managing expectations with artists and production teams in real-time. On September 27, we partnered with The Huntington to share their experiences with COVID safety protocols and reopening the Calderwood Pavilion to live performances.




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.