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Focus Groups on Canadians’ Participation in the Arts

March 18, 202018 March 2020

Arts participation

Department of Canadian Heritage


Corporate Research Associates Inc.

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Based on the findings of qualitative focus groups with 108 Canadian adults, this report provides insights into motivations, barriers, benefits, and community attachment related to arts participation. Acting as a supplement to the 2017 Arts and Heritage Access and Availability survey, the report finds that Canadians have a high level of interest in the arts and perceive that arts participation helps them feel more connected to their various communities.

Fifteen online focus groups were conducted in March of 2018, split equally between three regions: English discussions among residents of provinces west of Ontario, English discussions among residents of Ontario and the Atlantic provinces, as well as French discussions among Quebec residents. In each region, there was one discussion group without a specific demographic orientation and one group for each of four target groups: youth between 18 and 24; “ethnocultural minorities”; immigrants and people with low or no arts attendance. The report notes that, because the research is qualitative, “results cannot be attributed to the overall population under study, with any degree of confidence”.

Among the report’s key findings:

  • “Interest in arts events is high” among focus group participants, but youth and infrequent or non-attendees display slightly lower levels of interest.
  • “Frequency of attendance varies widely” around an overall average of six to ten events each year. Attendance tends to be more frequent during the summer months and among youth participants (18 to 24).
  • “Music concerts and festivals were mentioned most when participants were asked to identify the types of arts events attended most frequently”.
  • There is substantial variety in attendance motivations, which include “interest and curiosity / discovering new things”; “an interest in specific artists”; “having time with friends and family / social interaction”; “an interest in a specific culture”; and “to have a good time / relax”.
  • Two key barriers arose most often in the focus groups discussions: “money / cost” and “time”.

Regarding arts participation via the internet, the research finds that in-person, live arts attendance is preferred over online participation. For participants, “being able to experience the event through various senses in-person highly contributed to [a] richer, deeper experience”. Many respondents use the internet as a tool to enhance live arts experiences and the accessibility of these experiences, as well as to find out about specific events and artists.

In terms of community connections, the report notes that there was broad agreement with the statement “attending a live arts event or experience strengthens my connection to the communities with which I identify”. Youth and infrequent or non-attendees were slightly less likely to agree, while “members of ethnocultural minority groups and first-generation immigrants consistently expressed stronger agreement with this statement”. Respondents in the ethnocultural minority and immigrant groups were also quickest to conclude that “attending arts events reveals Canada’s cultural diversity and elicits a strong sense of pride”.

Regarding one’s understanding of other communities, the statement “attending a live arts event or experience brings me to a closer understanding of other communities” received strong agreement in the focus groups. For this statement, “many in the ethnocultural minority groups responded with a 10 indicating complete agreement, as did many first-generation immigrants”.

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