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Research Notes for Wave 1 (June 15)

The first deployment of the COVID-19 Audience Outlook Monitor survey in Ontario occurred on June 15, 2020, resulting in a total of 11,295 responses collected by 83 organizations. These results represent a baseline, and we will track changes in attitudes as responses are collected in subsequent months. 

Key Figures

•    81% of respondents would be comfortable walking around a museum or gallery with social distancing and other health safety measures
•    23% of respondents would be comfortable attending a performance venue seating 1000 or more people with social distancing and other health safety measures
•    17% of respondents are ready to return to cultural events as soon as it is legally allowed
•    31% of respondents are waiting for the rate of new infections to drop to near zero
•    42% of respondents are waiting for broad availability of testing and treatment, vaccination, or immunity

Comfort Levels

At present, comfort levels are highest in spaces where visitors are able to move around in a controlled environment without too much interaction. 81% of the respondents are either somewhat or very comfortable walking through museums and galleries, while 70% felt the same about community arts spaces and studios. 62% feel at least somewhat comfortable in outdoor environments that are less controlled (festivals or concerts), but just 40% feel that way about seated indoor venues, such as large theatres or music halls. Respondents are least comfortable in uncontrolled and highly interactive spaces such as comedy clubs, live music venues, and hands-on museum exhibits. Over three quarters of the respondents would not feel comfortable in such environments at this point.  



In general respondents are more comfortable in smaller crowds. 65% would feel at least somewhat comfortable in venue seating up to 50 people, but less than half would be comfortable in a venue seating 100, and just 23% would feel somewhat or very comfortable in a venue seating 1000.

Conditions for Return

In keeping with the relatively low proportion of respondents who would feel “very comfortable” attending arts and cultural venues at this point, just 13% of respondents said they’d be ready to return to cultural events as soon as it’s permitted. On the opposite end of the spectrum, 16% said they would not return to arts events until there is no risk at all. Most (71%) will be ready to resume attending arts and cultural events when they believe the risk of infection is “minimal.”

There seem to be considerable discrepancies in the conditions respondents are looking for to determine when it will be safe to attend arts and cultural events once again. 26% said they would not return to arts events until they are vaccinated or have developed immunity to the virus, but almost half would be satisfied if testing is widely available or the rate of new infections is near zero. Just 1% said that they could not see attending in the foreseeable future, which suggests almost everyone expects to resume attending arts and cultural events eventually.

In fact, when respondents were asked how the pandemic would impact their attendance frequency in the long term, 86% said they would attend more frequently or the same amount as they did before, and just 13% indicated they would attend less frequently. 

Response to Proposed Safety Measures

The survey tested audience attitudes towards a list of measures that organizations can take to reduce the risk of virus transmission in their venues. Respondents were asked whether these measures would encourage or discourage their attendance of arts and cultural organizations. Overall, respondents felt encouraged by safety measures. 

The less invasive safety measures like disinfecting facilities on a daily basis are most salient with 84% reporting that this measure is encouraging. More invasive safety measures like taking attendees’ temperatures at the door and not allowing individuals with elevated temperatures to attend, or requiring masks, can also discourage some arts-goers. For example, while 78% of respondents are encouraged by requiring masks, 9% reported they would be discouraged by this requirement. 

When we isolate responses from individuals who are more apprehensive about returning, specifically those who live with someone who is vulnerable to a serious health outcome from contracting COVID-19, we see that 81% are encouraged by requiring face masks. By contrast, when we look at the respondents who are likely to be among the first to return to arts events (i.e., those who indicate they’re ready to return as soon as it’s permitted), only 53% will be encouraged by face mask requirements, while fully 25% say they’ll be discouraged. These findings illustrate that some measures will be read quite differently by different audience segments.

These findings reflect some initial observations based on the first wave of data collection. Additional survey deployments are planned for August, October, and December, 2020. We look forward to reporting on trends over time as the survey data becomes available. 


Supported by the Ontario Arts Council
in association with the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts



4th Line Theatre
Art Gallery of Burlington
Art Gallery of Hamilton
Art Gallery of Sudbury | Galerie d'art de Sudbury
Art Gallery of Windsor
Art Museum at the University of Toronto
Brott Music Festival
C.C.M.C. Music Gallery
Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery
Canadian Stage
Contact Photography Festival
Crow's Theatre
dance Immersion

Dreamwalker Dance Company
Factory Theatre
Fall for Dance North Festival
Festival of the Sound
Grand Theatre
Great Canadian Theatre Company
Guelph Dance
Hamilton Fringe Festival
Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra
Hillside Festival
Hot Docs
imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival
Kaeja d'Dance
Kingston Canadian Film Festival
Kingston Symphony Association
Kingston WritersFest
Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony
La Nouvelle Scène Gilles Desjardins
Luminato Festival Toronto
Mouvement d'implication francophone d'Orléans (MIFO)
MT Space
Museum London
Native Earth Performing Arts
NYO Canada
Obsidian Theatre Company
Onsite Gallery, OCAD University
Opera Atelier
Ottawa Bluesfest
Ottawa Chamberfest
Ottawa Jazz Festival
Peggy Baker Dance Projects
Port Stanley Festival Theatre
Public Energy Performing Arts
Sampradaya Dance Creations
Station Gallery
Stratford Festival
Sudbury Theatre Centre
SUNFEST-London Committee for Cross Cultural Arts Inc.
Talk Is Free Theatre
Tarragon Theatre
Telling Tales
Textile Museum of Canada
The Essential Collective Theatre
The Fringe of Toronto Theatre Festival
The Musical Stage Company
The National Ballet of Canada
The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery
The Robert McLaughlin Gallery
The Shaw Festival
Theatre Aquarius
Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario
Théâtre français de Toronto
Theatre Passe Muraille
Thousand Islands Playhouse
Thunder Bay Art Gallery
Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra
Toronto International Festival of Authors
Toronto Jewish Film Foundation
Toronto Mendelssohn Choir
Toronto Outdoor Picture Show
Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival
Toronto Symphony Orchestra
Tottering Biped Theatre
Varley Art Gallery of Markham
Wavelength Music Arts Projects
Windsor Symphony Orchestra
YES Theatre
Young People's Theatre

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Please contact Megan Bander, Consultant and Business Manager at WolfBrown, at:

Email: megan@wolfbrown.com

Phone: (415) 796 3060 ext 0

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