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.


Since June 2020, the Audience Outlook Monitor has been tracking audience attitudes and behaviors during the pandemic.


  • Audience Readiness to Return
    • Respondents who are fully vaccinated and ready to go indoors “now” dropped from 78% in June to 58% in August
    • Majority of people (50+%) now say they won’t return to live indoor performances until at least October, two months later than the June survey response.
    • The percentage of people who indicated they’ll wait until January 2022 or later to return to the arts rose from 15% to 40%
  • High Rates of Vaccination
    • 98% partially or fully vaccinated
  • Post Vaccination Expectations
    • 80% of people say a proof of vaccination policy would make them more likely to attend indoor events
    • 31% say they would return only to performance spaces where proof of vaccination is required for entry
    • 49% mask-wearing is prerequisite at indoor performances; 68% mask-wearing indoors at museums (up from 50% in June)
    • Respondents say organizations have done a good job communicating about programming and changes (85% say “good” or “excellent” now, vs. 78% in June)
  • Hybrid Is Here For Immediate Future
    • 74% expect digital will play a small or substantial role once live performances return (up from 66% in April)


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.