British Columbia arts and culture research projects

This series of research projects included three primary research endeavours: 1) a comparison of the finances of 19 B.C. arts, culture, and heritage organizations with 38 “peer” organizations in other provinces; 2) analysis of a province-wide survey of arts, culture, and heritage organizations; and 3) a summary of 14 qualitative interviews “related to human resources, community engagement and impacts, diversity, the entrepreneurial nature of B.C. arts organizations, and the nature of success for different groups”. A presentation that outlines key findings from all the research streams and provides a summary of existing data on the B.C. arts sector is also available.

Based on data on arts charities from the Canada Revenue Agency, the financial analysis found that most B.C. arts organizations received less funding from provincial and federal government sources than similar organizations in other provinces. Despite a relative increase in provincial funding for arts organizations in B.C. compared with other provinces between 2009-10 and 2013-14, “62% of B.C. organizations still received a lower percentage of overall revenues from the provincial government” in 2013-14. Most B.C. organizations generated higher earned revenues than comparison organizations in 2013-14, while B.C. organizations raised similar proportions of their budgets from private sector sources.

An online survey in 2015 received 206 responses from many different types of arts, culture, and heritage organizations, with arts education being the most common area in which organizations were involved. Respondents were not randomly selected, so the results should not be assumed to represent all B.C. arts, culture, and heritage organizations.

Respondents reported “total attendance of 4 million (equivalent to 88% of B.C. population)”, with free attendance accounting for 44% of the total. A typical respondent was found to engage about 22 artists, have about three full-time equivalent staff members and over 50 volunteers, with the donated time equating to about one additional full-time staff person. The survey found that 65% of responding organizations have some staff members who do extra unpaid work within the organization, while a similar proportion (66%) “staff up at peak times” of the year.

The survey also found that B.C. arts, culture, and heritage organizations perceive their impacts on communities to include: 1) artistic impacts; 2) stimulating thought; 3) education; and 4) fostering creativity. Respondents were asked about 26 different issues that could be considered key strengths or challenges for them. The diversity of the situations of arts, culture, and heritage organizations is shown by the fact that at least three organizations selected each of the 26 areas as “a major strength” and at least three selected each area as “a major challenge”. Regarding key issues for the future, five areas received the largest number of responses: overall staff capacity (53% of respondents), generating earned revenues (47%), financial health, in general (40%), facilities / physical plant (32%), and obtaining support from government funders (29%).

The summary of 14 qualitative interviews, conducted between June and October 2015, highlights “successful practices in British Columbia’s arts community”. Regarding human resources, the report indicates that “all arts and culture organizations are short on human resources, even relatively well-financed ones. There is a risk of burnout, and many staff take on multiple roles.” However, even in the context of limited budgets, “investing in human resources is crucial”. In B.C.’s arts sector, support for professional development is limited, and succession planning can be challenging. Concerning community impacts and engagement, the interviews showed that B.C. arts organizations have a range of “significant impacts on people’s lives” and that “community engagement requires a thoughtful approach to get it right”. Regarding diversity, the qualitative research report indicates that B.C. arts “organizations have specifically designed programs for a wide range of people and perspectives, including youth, Indigenous people, economic and social diversity, mental and physical ability, cultural diversity, and geographic communities”. The report also summarizes findings related to two areas that were not planned topics but were found to be significant enough to warrant a brief summary: entrepreneurship in the arts and the nature of success in B.C. arts organizations.

Summary: 

This series of research projects included three primary research endeavours: 1) a comparison of the finances of 19 B.C. arts, culture, and heritage organizations with 38 “peer” organizations in other provinces; 2) analysis of a province-wide survey of arts, culture, and heritage organizations; and 3) a summary of 14 qualitative interviews “related to human resources, community engagement and impacts, diversity, the entrepreneurial nature of B.C. arts organizations, and the nature of success for different groups”.