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National Arts and Culture Impact Survey: Individual Report

February 24, 202124 February 2021

Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the arts

Consortium of 30 arts service organizations


PRA Inc.

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Conducted in November of 2020, this survey received responses from 1,273 artists and arts workers across Canada. As is the case for all surveys where people self-select whether to respond, there is uncertainty as to whether the responses provide a representative sample of all Canadian artists and arts workers. In the survey sample, there is known underrepresentation of people residing in Quebec and British Columbia and overrepresentation of Alberta-based individuals. The responses were not adjusted to account for any known skews in the representation of all Canadian artists and arts workers.

Among respondents, 44% identify as artists, 20% as arts workers, and 36% as both. More than one-half of respondents (54%) have worked in the sector for more than 20 years. Respondents represent a range of arts disciplines, with the largest number of responses from people working in theatre (39%), music (38%), and the visual arts (31%).

The survey finds that 71% of respondents were working less in the arts and culture sector in November than before the COVID-19 pandemic, including 12% who are no longer working in the sector. Similarly, “68% of individuals reported a lower expected income than what they were originally projecting” for 2020. The report notes that “just over half of respondents expect to be working in the arts and culture sector in three months time, while about one-third say it is unlikely”.

Stress levels have increased considerably during the pandemic: 30% of respondents reported very high levels of stress and anxiety in November of 2020, compared with only 3% before the pandemic.

Regarding the pivot to digital programming, the survey results show that:

  • 71% of respondents are “interested in or already exploring [digital] opportunities”
  • 59% see digital opportunities as “a necessary aspect of [their] practice or operations”
  • 50% “have the knowledge required to go digital”
  • 48% “have the capacity to go digital”
  • 45% believe that digital programming will advance their artistic practice

Looking back over the three months prior to the survey, respondents identified many obstacles that they faced, including “general uncertainty and inability to plan for the future” (selected by 83%), “shortage of available work opportunities” (65%), “shortage of personal energy/motivation” (64%), “stress or burnout” (62%), and “personal/family health concerns” (52%).

One-half of respondents (exactly 50%) received no funding or support from public agencies for their arts activities during the previous three years (i.e., 2018 to 2020). The most commonly received sources of public funding are provincial arts councils (29%), followed by the Canada Council for the Arts (27%) and municipal sources (21%). Regarding pandemic-related supports, the survey finds that “half of individuals [50%] applied for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and about 1 in 5 applied for the Canada Recovery Benefit” (18%).

Regarding their optimism for the recovery of the arts sector from the impacts of COVID-19, there is a nearly equal split between optimists (46%) and pessimists (41%), with the remainder feeling neutral about the prospects of recovery (13%).

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