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Performing arts education overview

January 5, 20125 January 2012

Arts education

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Based on a survey of senior arts education staff members and artistic directors of 50 Toronto-area performing arts companies, this report provides information about “the range, reach and impact of the arts education programs of dance, music, opera and theatre organizations in the Toronto area”. The goal of the project partners (the Creative Trust and the Professional Arts Organizations Network for Education) was “to support companies in their continued development of arts education programs and activities that lead to successful audience development and community engagement”.

The survey found that the arts education activities of the 50 performing arts organization respondents attracted over one-half million participants of all ages (537,000). The programs of the 37 organizations active in schools reached over 4,000 schools in 2009-10.

The survey respondents indicated that they pursue a range of different goals in their arts education programming. Three goals were selected by the largest number of respondents: building audiences for the future (92%); ensuring exposure to the arts (88%); and community building (74%). The report argues that “the relative popularity of community building implies that many performing arts organizations are looking beyond audience development and arts exposure goals in their educational programming”.

When asked to select one primary educational goal, the 50 performing arts organizations chose a variety of different goals:

  • Ensuring exposure to the arts (18% of respondents)
  • Introduction to or exploration of a specific art form (16%)
  • Training / skills development in a specific discipline (14%)
  • Community building (12%)
  • Building audiences for the future (12%)

Survey respondents’ total arts education spending equalled $12 million, or about 5% of the organizations’ total operating budgets. Many organizations indicated that foundations and private donors were an important source of arts education funding. In fact, private donors/foundations were selected by more responding organizations than any other source of funding (71% of all respondents). Government operating funding was selected by 65% of responding organizations, while corporate funders ranked third (selected by 58% of all companies). Government project funding was chosen by 44% of respondents. Other sources of revenue include student ticket sales (44% of respondents), fee-based workshops (42%), and school touring revenue (15%).

Respondents identified three main challenges in their arts education work: 1) finding adequate funding; 2) communicating the value of the work that they do (outside of their own organizations); and 3) lack of time or being overworked. Respondents also identified particular successes, such as specific arts education programs, their longevity in the field, or their impacts on arts education participants.

Respondents were quite positive regarding the future of arts education within their organizations, “with over three-quarters of respondents indicating that they anticipate an increase (either minor or substantial) in their organization’s arts education activities”.

The report outlines the types of programs provided by the organizations for children, youth, and adults, as well as programs targeted to specific groups or communities. The report also identifies the history of arts education within responding organizations, the internal status of arts education, the budgetary position of arts education, respondents’ self-assessed quality of their arts education programs, as well as skills development needs within responding performing arts organizations.

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