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Canadians’ Arts, Culture, and Heritage Participation in 2016

Also: Demographic Patterns in Canadians’ Arts Participation in 2016

March 13, 201913 March 2019

Arts participation

Hill Strategies Research


Kelly Hill, Hill Strategies Research Inc.

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Two recent reports from Hill Strategies examine Canadians’ participation in the arts, culture, and heritage based on Statistics Canada’s 2016 General Social Survey, which asked 9,844 respondents about their participation in 28 different activities. Hill Strategies analyzed the responses to these questions and combined them into broader participation indicators.

The broadest participation indicators show that, in 2016:

  • 99.5% of Canadians participated in the arts, culture, and heritage in some way
  • 86% of Canadians attended at least one arts activity
  • 77% read at least one book
  • 70% visited at least one heritage site

The overall arts attendance statistic (86%) includes eight activities: movies at theatres (71%); popular music performances (42%); live performances, such as drama, musical theatre, dinner theatre, or comedy (40%); public art galleries (39%); artistic or cultural festivals, such as film, jazz, folk, or comedy (31%); performances of cultural or heritage music, theatre, or dance, such as Aboriginal Peoples, Chinese, or Ukrainian (20%); symphonic or classical music performances (16%); and another kind of cultural performance (20%). When movie theatres are excluded, the arts attendance statistic decreases to 73%.

Regarding attendance trends, “there were largely positive results … over the past 25 years, as evidenced by strong increases in the art gallery and historic site attendance rates” as well as by increases in attendance at movie theatres, museums, and other heritage activities. The trends results were not uniformly positive, as there was a significant recent decrease in “listening to music on CDs, vinyl, or other conventional formats”. The report notes that “questions related to the performing arts have changed over time, precluding an analysis of long-term participation trends”.

The second report (Demographic Patterns) examines demographic similarities and differences in arts participation, including analyses by sex, Indigeneity, racialized groups, immigration, language, rural or urban residence, age, education, income, children at home, and religious affiliation. The report also provides “a rare intersectional analysis of arts participation by women and racialized Canadians. [For example], the report examines the arts participation rates of women who are racialized, are immigrants, or have particularly low or high income levels.”

Consistent with previous reports on this topic, the demographic report finds that “higher education equates to higher arts participation”, with higher education being “the only demographic factor that is important for all 11 indicators of arts participation”.

Another key finding is the high arts attendance rates of younger Canadians, with “youth 15 to 24 years of age [tending] to have higher arts attendance rates than older respondents”.

Other tendencies found in the data include “small but consistent” differences in arts attendance rates between women and men, higher attendance rates for higher-income Canadians, and higher attendance rates for Canadians without a religious affiliation.

The demographic analysis finds that “many groups have similar overall arts attendance rates, including racialized and non-racialized Canadians …, Indigenous and non-Indigenous respondents, as well as immigrant and non-immigrant respondents. However, for each of these demographic groups, there are differences in the attendance rates for some of the eight arts activities.”

In addition to overall arts attendance, the Demographic Patterns report analyzes “arts attendance excluding movie theatres; public art gallery attendance; attendance at live theatre or comedy; classical music attendance; popular music attendance; heritage or ethnic performance attendance; [and] attendance at artistic or cultural festivals”.

For the first time in 2016, Statistics Canada asked respondents about “active participation” in the arts, including eight questions related to making or performing art. Exactly one-half of Canadians (50%) indicated that they did at least one the eight activities, which include crafts (18%), music making (15%), visual arts (13%), writing (11%), dancing (9%), audio-visual and interactive media (4%), theatre (1.4%), and another creative arts activity (5%).

For making or performing art, the Demographic Patterns report indicates that, “unlike the overall arts attendance pattern, participation in making or performing art is very similar to the national average (50%) for Canadians of different family income levels. While urban respondents tend to have higher arts attendance rates than rural respondents, the two groups have similar participation rates in making or performing art.”

The analysis found similar participation rates for many other demographic groups, including between Indigenous (48%) and non-Indigenous respondents (52%), respondents from racialized groups (50%) and those not from racialized groups (51%), immigrant (47%) and non-immigrant respondents (51%), and the Anglophone majority outside of Quebec (56%) compared with minority-language Francophones (58%).

Both reports contain much more information and detailed tables related to Canadians’ arts, culture, and heritage participation in 2016.

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