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Vital Signs: Arts & Belonging

June 21, 201721 June 2017

Social benefits of the arts

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Summarizing existing research studies and incorporating new analyses of existing statistical sources, the core argument of this report is that arts “participation builds belonging”, which can be defined as how people connect with others and engage with their communities. The report attempts to provide “compelling data and stories that demonstrate the power of the arts to build a greater sense of belonging to our communities, to our country, and to each other”.

Citing statistics from a 2012 survey, the report notes that “77% of Canadians agree or strongly agree that arts and heritage experiences help them feel part of their local community”. A 2015 survey showed that “Canadians who rate arts, culture and leisure in their city or town as ‘excellent’ are 2.8 times more likely to report a ‘very strong’ sense of belonging to their city or town, compared to those who rate arts as ‘poor’”.

The 2012 survey found that “92% of Canadians believe arts experiences are a valuable way of bringing together people from different languages and cultural traditions”.

The report also highlights research findings regarding arts participation and new Canadians, youth, seniors, rural and remote communities, Indigenous people and communities, as well as Francophones in minority-language settings.

Among the report’s 17 recommendations “to continue to build belonging through the arts” are calls to:

  • “Support high-quality arts experiences”
  • “Promote early, affordable and frequent exposure to the arts”
  • “Explore intergenerational arts opportunities”
  • “Explore art as a vehicle for reconciliation”
  • Improve accessibility for people with disabilities
  • Collaborate with “newcomer and settlement service providers to identify opportunities and programs to help newcomers feel welcome and comfortable” in arts spaces
  • Increase opportunities for arts-related learning and interactions
  • “Improve research linking the arts and belonging”


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