by Jini Stolk
“What do we really know about the arts in Toronto?” was the original, seemingly simple question that led to four months of research and the publication of Toronto Arts Foundation’s Toronto Arts Facts.
Arts Facts compiles recent data from a variety of statistical surveys and research studies on Toronto’s arts and their place in our economy, tourism, communities and quality of life. Kate Taylor’s article in the Globe and Mail focused on the Facts’ anticipated prominent role in the municipal election campaign , where it will no doubt be useful in building awareness, among candidates and voters, of the size and impact of the arts in Toronto.
But there may even be a few surprises in Toronto Arts Facts for those of us working in the arts. Did you know that: arts and culture contribute $11.3 billion annually to Toronto’s GDP? that 174,000 Torontonians work in the culture sector? that our creative workforce has grown at more than twice the rate of our overall labour force? that Toronto is home to 93% more artists than any other Canadian city? or that every $1 the City invests in the non-profit arts sector generates $12.46 from other levels of government and the private sector, and $8.26 in earned revenues?
Toronto Arts Facts also tells a compelling story about how the arts enliven and enrich Toronto’s neighbourhoods and local businesses, help young people gain purpose and confidence, enhance the livability of our city and build local pride. Their central role in the creative economy, and in developing the engaged citizenry and social cohesion on which Toronto’s continued growth and prosperity depends, has become the focus of many studies and articles.
It’s not surprising but good to know that 70% of Torontonians regularly attend arts events or donate to the arts, and about the same number believe the arts improve the quality of life and benefit the community. The fact that people living in Toronto participate in and value the arts so enthusiastically speaks to those harder-to-measure arts impacts such as communal belonging, empathy and mutual understanding necessary to a multi-cultural community like ours.
Andrew Taylor recently wrote about the importance of studying and analyzing our world. He quotes Zora Neale Hurston (author of Their Eyes Were Watching God): “Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.”
The purpose of documents like Toronto Arts Facts, I would say, is to really understand what the arts contribute, busting myths about “frills” and “nice-to-haves not need-to-haves.” Working on this project with my colleagues Kathleen McLeod and Kasia Gladki has reinforced my belief that the arts community needs to collaborate to undertake more research and fact-finding, work to align its surveys to previous studies in order to fill in research gaps and build comparable statistics, and share the results more actively across sectors and with the public.
I can definitely commit to curiosity and lots of future poking and prying; and I’m hoping that this project becomes the first of many bringing together researchers and arts leaders to understand the power of the arts in Toronto.
Toronto Arts Facts is available on the TAC, TAF and Creative Trust websites, and is being printed as a booklet for targeted distribution. Its findings will provide supporting information for the recently launched “Toronto Loves the Arts” in celebration of the Toronto Arts Council ‘s 40th anniversary. The goals of this campaign are to generate conversation and increase public pride and ownership of the arts in Toronto. Stay tuned to #TOlovesTheArts and Toronto Arts on Facebook .