Arts Impact Measurement Project

Two recent reports about the arts and culture in the Alberta Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (i.e., Fort McMurray and area) resulted from three research streams: 1) a telephone survey of a representative sample of local residents; 2) an internet survey of local artists and arts organizations; and 3) a literature review regarding the arts and regeneration after a disaster.

Results from the two surveys are combined in one report (Wood Buffalo’s Arts Community Viewed from Within and Without) and two accompanying infographics. Some key findings of the public survey include:

  • The importance of arts and cultural events for the quality of life of respondents and their families was ranked more highly by Wood Buffalo residents (81% saying “very” or “moderately” important) than other Canadians (66%).
  • A higher proportion of Wood Buffalo residents than Torontonians have positive perceptions of the value of professional artists, local business support for the arts, and local government funding for the arts.
  • Wood Buffalo residents are less likely than other Canadians to attend live performances and other arts activities, which the report indicates is “likely due to lack of opportunities to participate”. The survey finds that “Wood Buffalo residents want more arts, culture and heritage”.
  • "There are more Wood Buffalo families with at least one child involved in creative arts activities (90%) than families with a child who plays sports (85%).”

The local survey of artists, arts workers, and arts organizations received 178 usable responses, a very high proportion (71%) of the rough estimate of the total number of local artists and arts organizations or businesses (250). With 130 artists responding (all of whom resided or did artistic work in Wood Buffalo during the previous three years), the results regarding artists are the strongest elements of the survey.

Demographic findings regarding Wood Buffalo artists include a predominance of women (67% of respondents), many different age groups, high education levels, and significant arts-specific training and experience. Many Wood Buffalo artists “work primarily in visual arts, music, and theatre”, and teaching is a major focus of many artists’ activities. Just under one-half of respondents (44%) consider themselves to be a professional artist, and “self-employment is the norm” among these professional artists. The survey results indicate that “over one-half of the professional artists surveyed work 40 hours / week or more on their art, despite the need for many artists to balance other work.” In Wood Buffalo, “professional artists are generally satisfied with their arts activity and their life, but not their finances”. Indeed, many professional artists were found to “have important financial challenges stemming from low household incomes”.

The literature review concerning the arts and disaster recovery was added to the Arts Impact Measurement Project after a wildfire in early May of 2016. The international review (Creative resilience in Wood Buffalo) finds that “the arts and culture have an important role to play in community resiliency and togetherness following a crisis situation”. Other key findings include:

  • “Art can empower disaster survivors to take control of their thoughts, their feelings, and their narratives, and thus to begin the long process of recovery.”
  • “Art strengthens the community’s ability to respond in every way.  It brings us together, connects us; it’s a critical piece that would be missing otherwise in how we are thinking about rebuilding.”
  • “Arts and culture activities help bring the community together, encourage a sense of community, enhance local pride, and help with closure after a traumatic situation.”
  • “Arts and culture initiatives are some of the primary ways in which citizens are able to participate in the creation of a new local identity.”
  • “Children might be one of the most under-served populations among disaster survivors. Creative activities can help them express their feelings, increase their resilience, and heal.”
  • “Given that artists have much to offer in post-disaster situations, efforts should be made to engage the arts community in local rebuilding efforts.”
  • There are many challenges in long-term recovery efforts, including “keeping artists activated, ongoing infrastructure needs, maintenance of neighbourhood networks, remaining on the agenda of recovery officials, and financial support for creative efforts”.
Summary: 

Two recent reports about the arts and culture in the Alberta Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (i.e., Fort McMurray and area) resulted from three research streams: 1) a telephone survey of a representative sample of local residents; 2) an internet survey of local artists and arts organizations; and 3) a literature review regarding the arts and regeneration after a disaster.