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Vitality and Impact of Arts Presenting

October 9, 20199 October 2019

Social benefits of the arts



Kelly Hill, Hill Strategies Research Inc.

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Based on a 2018 survey of Canadian arts presenters, this report details the scope, vitality, and practices of the presenting sector, as well as presenters’ perceived impacts in their communities. The survey received 250 responses from presenters in 172 different municipalities, located in every province and territory.

Based on qualitative information provided by respondents about the impacts of presenting in their communities, the report notes that “many presenters spoke of the testimonials received from audience members or program participants whose arts experiences were so moving that they were better able to cope with illness, difficult socio-economic situations, or feelings of exclusion”. Presenters’ in-depth comments touched on social benefits such as:

  • “Reflecting Indigenous languages on stage and opening eyes to Indigenous stories”
  • “Helping at-risk youth create stories and songs that have attendees in tears”
  • “Having a dance performance by and for women that ended in a spontaneous ‘flash mob’ where the entire diverse audience was on stage dancing with the performers”
  • “Fostering connections among students and residential school survivors that demonstrate the power of the arts to speak to challenging social issues and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples”
  • “Holding an Indigenous round dance at a festival as an act of reconciliation”
  • “Enabling Francophone minorities, Indigenous Peoples, and speakers of non-official languages to hear their mother tongue performed on stage”

Regarding their community engagement activities, 99% of presenters indicated that they conduct at least two engagement activities, including “very common activities like ‘pre- or post-show discussions’ to less common activities such as ‘participatory arts experiences’ and ‘art for social change’”. Presenters selected an average of six activities (from a list of 17 methods of community engagement).

Presenters indicated that they often collaborate with organizations outside of the arts, including elementary or secondary schools (selected by 78% of respondents), tourism organizations (54%), business groups (52%), post-secondary education / research (46%), as well as immigrant and diversity organizations (35%).

The full report includes survey findings that extend well beyond presenters’ social benefits and community engagement, such as the number of artists – and Canadian artists – engaged (as well as fees paid), Indigenous and diverse artists engaged, languages of works presented, attendance, staffing, volunteering, and finances.

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