To view the html or pdf versions of this message, please visit
Situation of artists and arts administrators
In this issue: A number of recent reports have examined the situation of artists and arts administrators in Canada, including an examination of the socio-economic condition of visual artists, a study of the situation of arts managers, as well as a statistical profile of artists in large Canadian cities.
Waging Culture: A Report on the Socio-Economic Status of Canadian Visual Artists
Michael Maranda, The Art Gallery of York University, March 2009
Based on a two-stage survey of Canadian visual artists, this study delves more deeply than any existing reports into visual artists’ sources of revenue, art practice expenses and time use. As noted in the report, “the bottom line for artists is dismal, with the typical artist losing $556 in 2007 on their practice. (Other income sources bring median total earnings to $20,000....)” In other words, more than half of all visual artists (56%) lose money on their artistic practice. The study indicates that “artists pay a significant economic penalty to pursue their practice”. The report therefore argues that visual artists themselves are the primary funders of artistic practices.
The study estimates that there are somewhere between 22,500 and 27,800 visual artists in Canada. These figures are about 30% and 60% larger than census counts. The 2006 census captured 17,100 “painters, sculptors and other visual artists” with employment income who worked more hours on their art than on any other activity in May of 2006.
Among respondents to the survey, the highest-earning visual artist had a net income of $60,000 from their artistic practice (after expenses). Visual artists in Quebec earn the highest net income (median of $1,383), while those in Alberta lose the most from their studio practice (median loss of $2,000).
On average, visual artists work 51 hours per week, with 26 hours devoted to their studio practice. Another 15 hours are on paid art-related work, 8 hours on other work, and 3 hours on art-related volunteering. In terms of income from all sources, those who spend the most time in their practice earn less than those who do more art-related or other work.
Among all respondents, sales account for more than half of all revenues (54%), followed by grants (34%) and artist fees (12%). The study indicates that grants essentially “buy time and materials for the production of art” but do not increase overall living standards. Artists with lower or no grants tend to work more in other occupations.
While the wage gap between male and female visual artists is relatively low (10%), the difference in sales is nearly 50%.
The study finds that over 30% of visual artists do not have supplementary health benefits. Similarly, more than one-third have no retirement funds. Another third have only self-financed funds. Just over one-half of all visual artists own their own homes, much lower than the average of 69% in the overall labour force.
The survey was done in two stages. The demographic information (1,200 respondents) has a margin of error of +/- 3.96%, 19 times out of 20. The financial information (560 respondents) has a margin of error of +/- 5.83%, 19 times out of 20.
Many more details about the socio-economic condition of Canadian visual artists are provided in the full report.
National Compensation Study – 2009 Update – for Management and Administration in Not-for-Profit Arts Organizations
Cultural Human Resources Council, March 2009
Based on a national survey of 218 arts organizations, this report provides data about salary levels for 21 management and administrative positions in Canadian non-profit arts organizations in 2008. Unfortunately, the report does not provide an estimate of the margin of error, given the number of survey respondents. This is a major limitation on any interpretation of the results. One cannot be sure whether (or how) the 218 arts organizations represent all organizations in the sector. It is also difficult to assess whether changes from a similar 2003 survey (when 231 organizations responded) are “real” or are simply due to different organizations responding in the two time periods.
With this caution in mind, the report does find that, not surprisingly, “arts organizations continue to lag behind the general not-for-profit sector and comparative industries in many areas of compensation and benefits, representing an ongoing real challenge for recruitment and retention”. In fact, the data in the report could lead one to ask why people decide to work in smaller arts organizations, where the pay is low, benefits are limited, and the hours are long (but flexible). Unfortunately, the study does not examine “intrinsic motivations” or other potential factors.
Given these human resource issues, it is not surprising that the turnover rate in the arts (among those who leave voluntarily) is high: 20%, compared with an average of 12% for other non-profit organizations.
This report concludes that “excessive workload, understaffing and a general unavailability of resources” continue to pose significant challenges for the arts sector.
Artists in Large Canadian Cities Based on the 2006 Census
Hill Strategies Research, September 2009
This report provides an analysis of artists residing in 93 large Canadian cities, including statistics concerning the number of artists, artists’ earnings, and trends between 1991 and 2006. A brief profile of artists and a summary of key changes between 1991 and 2006 are also provided for the 93 cities with a population of 50,000 or more.
Overall, 103,500 artists reside in the 93 large cities included in the study. This represents three-quarters (74%) of the 140,000 artists in Canada.
The City of Toronto has the largest absolute number of artists (22,265), followed by Montreal (13,425) and Vancouver (8,155). The seven other cities with over 2,000 artists are Calgary (5,110), Ottawa (4,550), Edmonton (3,255), Winnipeg (2,905), Mississauga (2,285), Halifax (2,215) and Quebec City (2,100). These ten cities house almost one-half (47%) of Canada’s 140,000 artists.
In the 93 cities, artists comprise 0.90% of the combined local labour forces, higher than the Canadian average (0.77%).
The three cities with the highest concentrations of artists are in British Columbia: Vancouver (2.35%), Victoria (1.87%) and North Vancouver District Municipality (1.61%). Toronto (1.60%) and Montreal (1.53 %) follow in fourth and fifth position (respectively). Six large cities have a concentration of artists that is about 1%: Saanich (BC), Halifax (NS), St. John’s (NL), Fredericton (NB), New Westminster (BC) and Oakville (ON).
Given the relatively high cost of living in large cities, artists’ average earnings levels are quite low. In 27 of the 63 cities with reliable earnings data, artists’ average earnings are below the Statistics Canada’s low-income cutoff for a single person. In 47 of the 63 cities with reliable earnings data, artists’ average earnings are below the Statistics Canada’s low-income cutoff for a family of two.
Across Canada, the average earnings of artists are 37% less than other Canadian workers. Artists fare worse than the Canadian average in most large cities. The earnings gap is above the Canadian average (i.e., 38% or more) in 52 of the 63 cities with reliable earnings data.
The arts are a growth sector in most Canadian cities. In the 92 large cities with reliable data between 1991 and 2006, there was a 40% increase in the number of artists, compared with a 25% increase in the overall labour force. In 55 of 92 large cities, the growth rate in the number of artists exceeded the growth in the overall local labour force between 1991 and 2006. More recently, however, the growth in the number of artists exceeded growth in the overall labour force in only 41 of 92 large cities between 2001 and 2006.
Between 1991 and 2006, the number of artists increased substantially in many suburban areas. Of the ten large cities where the number of artists doubled (or more) between 1991 and 2006, many are suburbs of Toronto (Whitby, Vaughan and Richmond Hill) or Vancouver (Coquitlam and Langley). Four other cities with very large increases are also in the broader Vancouver and Toronto regions, including Chilliwack (BC), Barrie (ON), Guelph (ON) and Niagara Falls (ON). Fredericton (NB) is the tenth city where the number of artists doubled.
Only 11 large cities saw a decrease in the number of artists between 1991 and 2006. These cities tend to be in northern or less populous areas of the country. Some northern cities with a decrease in the number of artists are Saguenay (QC), North Bay (ON), Greater Sudbury (ON) and Prince George (BC). Less populous cities with a decrease are Shawinigan (QC), Cape Breton (NS), Saint-Hyacinthe (QC), Norfolk County (ON) and Strathcona County (AB).
Some artists or other labour force workers might choose a municipality in which to work based on its reputation as an “arts-friendly” city. It is possible, therefore, that those cities with a particularly high concentration or number of artists might see larger growth in the number of artists or larger labour force growth than other cities. The report shows that there does not appear to be a connection between the concentration of artists and growth in the number of artists. Nor does there appear to be a connection between the absolute number of artists and growth in the number of artists between 1991 and 2006. Finally, there does not appear to be a simple connection between either the concentration or the number of artists and overall labour force growth.