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The Arts and Heritage in Canada – Access and Availability 2007

October 1, 20101 October 2010

Arts attendance, participation and public perception

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Prepared for the Department of Canadian Heritage by Phoenix Strategic Perspectives, this report contains some interesting insights into the arts in Canada and some information that is not available through Statistics Canada’s arts participation surveys. While the report is largely based on a survey of 1,202 Canadians 15 or older, the study also integrates information from 14 focus groups conducted in Halifax, Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto, Prince Albert, Calgary, and Vancouver. “Six focus groups were conducted with the general public, six groups with youth (two groups with each of three segments: 16-17 years, 18-19 years and 20-24 years), and two groups with Aboriginal Canadians.”

While the report provides information about arts attendance, the most useful statistics might be those concerning personal involvement in the arts and perceptions of the importance of the arts. In fact, the survey findings reveal a strong consensus among Canadians concerning the importance of the arts, culture and heritage. About nine in 10 Canadians (or more) agreed that:

  • “Arts experiences are a valuable way of bringing together people from different languages and cultural traditions” (95%).
  • Museums’ role in preserving the past is important for their community (94%).
  • “Live theatre companies, musicians, artists, festivals, and other cultural activities in a community make it a better place to live” (94%).
  • Museums’ role in providing learning activities is important for their community (93%).
  • “Canadian actors, musicians, writers and other artists are among best in the world and can hold their own on the world stage” (91%).
  • Museums’ role in presenting exhibitions is important for their community (90%).
  • “Artists need more opportunities to bring work to the public” (90%).
  • Museums’ role in attracting tourists is important for their community (89%).

In addition, a large majority of respondents agreed that specific arts, culture and heritage facilities contribute “a lot” or “somewhat” to the quality of life of people living in their community:

  • Libraries (95%).
  • Spaces for live performances (90%).
  • Museums (83%).
  • Heritage centres, “such as an historic village, fort or house” (83%).
  • Facilities “combining several arts and cultural activities in one” (81%).
  • Public art galleries (78%)
  • “Spaces for artists to create and do their work” (71%).

In terms of why arts and cultural activities are important, focus group participants indicated that the activities “provide relaxation and entertainment, education and edification, and family outings”.

Regarding the governmental role in culture, a strong majority of Canadians agreed that:

  • Governments should help “protect and preserve Canada’s heritage” (94%).
  • Governments should provide “support for arts and culture in Canada” (91%).
  • Governments should promote “awareness of Canadian arts and cultural events and activities” (90%).
  • Governments should make sure that “arts and cultural events and activities are affordable” (89%).
  • Governments should make sure that “there are enough arts and cultural facilities to serve the public” (88%).
  • Governments should provide “special funding for arts activities involving culturally-diverse communities” (83%).
  • Governments should provide “special funding for arts activities involving Aboriginal communities” (80%).

The survey also asked respondents to evaluate governments’ performance in the arts, culture and heritage. The report notes that “the proportion of respondents that support each type of government involvement in arts and culture in Canada are markedly higher than the proportion that think governments are doing a good job in each area.”

Focus group participants were asked about the importance that they believe their governments place on the arts and heritage. The report indicates that “views were mixed, with many saying they do not know and have no real way to gauge this.” Some respondents indicated that they do not believe that “governments in Canada view arts and heritage as important because such issues are rarely, if ever, talked about by politicians, are not election issues, and because the arts and cultural scenes tend to be where governments first cut funding when they need to save money”. Those who do believe that governments place an importance on the arts and heritage “pointed to the existence of organizations like the CBC, the National Film Board, and the CRTC”.

The survey also probed respondents’ personal creative activities and found that “60% of respondents are personally involved in at least one artistic activity”. These activities include:

  • “Acting, dancing, singing, playing a musical instrument, or writing or composing music, either on your own or as part of group” (27%).
  • “Making a donation of money, goods, or services to an arts or cultural organization” (27%).
  • “Making photographs, movies, or videos as an artistic activity” (22%).
  • “Visual art, such as painting or sculpting, or fine craft, such as pottery, ceramics, leatherwork, and weaving” (19%).
  • “Holding a membership in or subscription to an arts or cultural organization” (16%).
  • “Volunteering with an arts or cultural organization” (14%).
  • “Creative writing, such as stories, poems or plays, outside of work or school” (12%).

Attendance statistics that are provided in this report but not asked about in Statistics Canada surveys include the estimates stating that 32% of respondents attended a media arts presentation and 15% attended a literary or poetry reading. Overall, the survey found that 86% of Canadians “attended at least one type of arts or cultural event or activity in the past year, with the most popular events being live performances (69%), craft shows (58%) and festivals (53%).” Among heritage institutions, “respondents were most likely to have been to a historic building or site (57%) or museum/science centre (52%) during the past year.”

It should be noted that some estimates in this 2007 report are higher than estimates based on a similar Statistics Canada survey conducted in 2005. For example, the performing arts attendance figure (69% attending a live performance in 2007) is much higher than the estimate based on the Statistics Canada survey (41% attending a concert or performance by professional artists of music, dance, theatre or opera, excluding cultural festivals, in 2005).

Possible explanations for the discrepancies in the estimates include differences in the survey years, survey questions, methodology and sample sizes. The Canadian Heritage survey relies upon a much smaller sample size than Statistics Canada’s main arts participation survey (1,200 vs. over 20,000). Although the overall results can still be considered accurate within 2.8% 19 times out of 20, the smaller sample size limits the breakdowns (such as provincial data) available from the Canadian Heritage survey.

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