10 Trends that Will Impact Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy in 2021

About this time last year, Americans for the Arts staff put our heads together to create a “Trends in 2020” blog post. We didn’t anticipate an economy-grinding pandemic, which has devastatingly shaped everything this past year, but we did hit some of the other trends that occurred—demographic change, rising division and distrust, shifts towards equity, the fight over who would get to vote and political power, and the primacy of data.

Across the arts field, most of us would agree that 2020 was a humbling, surprising, traumatic, and frustratingly unpredictable year. While trend forecasting in this moment is a tricky business, understanding what might be coming around the bend is crucial to our success as a field, particularly as we navigate such a volatile time.

Who knows, honestly, what 2021 will bring—but the staff at Americans for the Arts got together (virtually, this time) and here’s what we’ve come up with—10 trends that we think will impact arts, culture, and the creative economy in 2021.

Click through after each trend to read more, including lots of links out to amazing writing on these topics across the internet.

  1. Mass movement and coalitions will continue to disrupt the status quo and push for new possibilities and policies—from all directions. We’re not saying all of them are equal—or equally legal—but we’re certainly in a moment of massive action. Click for more
  2. The economy will restart, but the creative economy will need help to keep up the pace. Rescue and recovery may be on the way, which is good, but there are worrying signs that some in our field may be so decimated they can’t take advantage. Click for more
  3. Budget ripple effects in local and state governments will make 2021 a risky time for local and state arts agencies, arts educators, and the entire creative sector. Finances always have a long tail—never more so than with government budgets and philanthropic dollars. That means this year and beyond will be a wild and potentially dangerous ride. Click for more
  4. Americans will continue to reckon with historic and current racial inequities in a struggle between maintaining forward momentum and giving into inertia. Since racial inequity was (and is) the status quo, 2021 will be another year of necessarily pushing for, and working towards, a new and more anti-racist moment while fighting tendencies to “return to normal.” Click for more
  5. The plight of the independent worker (and the creative worker in particular) will move up the priority list. This is the year that the creative economy will need to reckon with how creatives are treated within it—or risk losing them and, with them, their ability to produce. Click for more
  6. Digital is here to stay, and virtual engagement (at least some of the time) may be, too. The pandemic’s seismic, forced shift to working, connecting, and living in a virtual space may cool off, but it’s not going away. Click for more
  7. Robots and AI are increasingly invading artforms and determining what we see and hear. The arts aren’t as robot-proof as we thought. From dancing robots to AI-powered opera, a cryptocurrency driven market for virtual visual art, and algorithms dictating what news you do and don’t see, it’s a moment of wonder and terror on the tech front. Click for more
  8. All aspects of health—from individual to environmental—will take the spotlight. Our individual mental and physical health, community health, environmental health, and global health are all suffering. This is the year we try and pick things back up. Click for more
  9. Getting back out there—to eat, play, and travel—will start up again, but it will likely not look the same. While we don’t know the full pacing of the vaccine rollout and what it will mean for travel, we’ll see a resurgence in travel this year, whether the arts are ready for it or not. Click for more
  10. Opening up and turning outward will be the order of the year for the country, and it’ll take some work. After four years of xenophobia, our federal government seems to be focused on looking outward again, and culture and creativity are at the center of rebuilding the relationships that were damaged and broken. Click for more