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BC Everyday Creativity & COVID-19

Research Report 2021

March 2, 20222 March 2022

The arts and post-pandemic transformations: Societal changes, artists, and the arts

Alliance for the Arts and Culture (B.C.)


Carolyne Claire

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Highlighting ”the ways in which [British Columbia] residents turned to creative activities during the COVID-19 pandemic”, this study argues that greater value should be placed on the arts, beyond aesthetic excellence, including “civic impacts related to social justice, environmental sustainability, quality of life, and other factors”. The report is based on a survey of a representative sample of the BC population as well as interviews with representatives of 40 arts organizations from across the province.

How and why do BC residents value creative activities? The public survey found that, during the pandemic, “improving mental health” became a much more significant factor in people’s decision to partake in creative activities (selected by 24% of respondents, compared with 12% pre-pandemic). The survey results also demonstrate a heightened interest and engagement in creative activities during the pandemic (average of eight hours per person per week, compared with five hours pre-pandemic). The survey used a broad definition of “creative activities”, including “listening to music, trying a new recipe, reading a book, making crafts, taking dance classes, watching movies or TV, viewing a live show, learning a language, attending an art gallery and more”. The report notes that creative activities are particularly valued by respondents “who self-identified as living below the median income level, as well as people who self-identified as female, parents, and those living with a disability”.

Regarding challenges to participating more often in creative activities, respondents most commonly selected “having more activities that are free (27%) and activities that are more interesting and relevant to their lives (26%)”.

The interviews with arts organization representatives found that, while most struggled with program cancellations and postponements during the pandemic, a majority “continued offering programming both online and in-person”. For the organizations, “emergency government funding provided during COVID-19 was crucial to their ability to survive the pandemic”, but one of the organizations did close down permanently.

Funding and space are key factors in organizational instability. In particular, “arts organizations mandated to support vulnerable communities faced greater instability”. Internet connectivity was found to be a key challenge for rural and remote organizations, who “could not easily pivot to presenting their programs online”.

Arts organizations, even those without a specific social mandate, “took on risk and used their creativity, skill and energy to address a specific social need within their community and, more generally, support people’s wellbeing”. The perceived benefits of their work include “decreasing social isolation and anxiety, and increasing participants’ self-confidence, self-expression, critical thinking, memory and other factors”. The report notes that, “as communities grapple with rising social and environmental concerns, it is possible that arts organizations will continue meeting additional community needs”.

Finding “great social value in the work of arts professionals who can lead communities in creative processes”, the report argues that “a more democratic funding model might value artistic processes over artistic products” and that “dominant concepts of artistic excellence” should be reframed.

The study concludes that, given “multiple calls for increasing equity and justice within the arts and cultural space, the sector should invite more radical transformation as it is reimagined and rebuilt following the pandemic”.

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