by Jini Stolk
We can be proud at the virtually unanimously positive perceptions Toronto residents have about the arts – from a way to attract tourists, improve the economy, create employment and make the city more beautiful – and how much they value the personal benefits for themselves and their children.
Toronto Arts Foundation Director and CEO Claire Hopkinson provided the deeper context in which to view the research’s insights into the connection between the people of Toronto and the arts. In her remarks at this year’s Mayors Arts Lunch, she talked about the event as a “conversation curated between, and among artists, patrons, political leaders and city builders about Toronto, where we are now, where we’re going and how we can work together to make this the best possible city.” “Once art reaches the public realm”, she continued, “it often leads to positive change…for the individual who experiences it and beyond that in a widening circle of understanding, of compassion and tolerance. Art connects individuals to ideas, to each other and to community.”
In her experience, as in mine, artists and their supporters love the city and are consciously contributing to city building through their work. “As a sector that excels in building platforms to engage, connect and create, I believe that the arts are a real part of the solution” to our many complex civic challenges, she concluded.
There were many fascinating findings in this year’s Arts Stats; these are some of my favorites:
71% of respondents regularly attend the arts (although I would add that the dance community should take a look at how to build excitement and audience engagement with its work); there was a call from residents for community-based arts hubs (which could be part of the Province of Ontario’s new Community Hubs initiative; 26% of Torontonians are engaged in the arts beyond attendance; childhood arts experiences – as we’ve learned again and again – stick with us and can change our lives; artists are not perceived as elitists in Toronto, but as important contributors to our neighbourhoods and quality of life; cost is still holding people back from attendance at arts events; and the #1 personal benefit people identified is that the arts expose them to new ideas (this is hugely important in a multi-cultural city like ours). And, oh joy, 74% of respondents feel that artists’ work has value and should be appropriately compensated.
More facts and figures
The Ontario Arts Council highlighted results from Statistics Canada’s “Provincial and Territorial Culture Satellite Account, 2010” report, which measures the contribution of culture to the Ontario economy:
- Arts, culture and heritage products represent $21.9 billion of the province’s gross domestic product (GDP) and over 278,800 jobs.
- Ontario’s arts, culture and heritage sector represents $23.8 billion or 4 % of the province’s GDP and over 301,000 jobs.
WolfBrown’s literature review for Arts Council England, Understanding the Value and Impacts of Cultural Experiences, compiles the major international research on the “intrinsic” value of cultural experiences.