Portrait of the Arts in Canada

Statistics on cultural spending, revenue and participation in Canada

  1. Cultural activities of citizens
  2. Household spending
  3. Number of cultural workers (artists, administrators and volunteers) and revenue
  4. Contribution of the arts to Gross Domestic Product
  5. Exports and cultural tourism
  6. Government spending on culture
  7. Arts Engagement

A) Cultural activities of citizens

According to the study Canadians’ Arts, Culture and Heritage Activities in 2010 , (Hill Strategies Research, March 2012), cultural outings by Canadians ages 15 and over increased or maintained levels in several artistic categories.

  • Galleries and museums
    10 million Canadians visited an art gallery in 2010 (or 35.7% of the population). This figure grew from 19.6% in 1992 and 26.7% in 2005. Nearly one-half of all Canadians (47.8% or 13.4 million) visited a museum in 2010.
  • Reading
    As a leisure activity (not paid work or studies), 82% of the population read a magazine and 75.7% read at least one book.
  • Performing arts
    60.4% of the population (16.9 million Canadians) attended at least one theatre, popular music, or classical music performance and nearly one-half (47.9%) of Canadians attended a attended a cultural festival or other performing arts event.
  • Film
    67.9% of Canadians went to a film or drive-in at least once in 2010 and 79.1% or 22.2 million Canadians watched a video.
  • Recorded music
    75.8% of Canadians listened to recorded music on CD (or other support) while 50.9% listened to downloaded music.

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B) Household spending

 According to the study  Consumer Spending on Culture in Canada, the Provinces and 12 Metropolitan Areas in 2008 (Hill Strategies Research, 2010), Canadians spent $27.4 billion in 2008 on cultural products and services. This equals: 

  • 2.9% of household spending
  • $841 per person
  • A 28% increase  between 1997 and 2008 (after adjustment for inflation)
  • an increase which is double the Canadian population growth.

In comparison, this $27.4 billion is greater than the combined spending of consumers on hotels, motels and other travel accommodation-

Canadians currently spend more than double on the performing arts than they spend on sports events.

Consumer spending on culture is three times larger than the $9.2 billion spent on culture by all levels of government in 2007/08.

For details on cultural spending, here are the main categories of expenditure:

  • Home-based entertainment: $15.4 billion (56 % of total)
  • Reading materials: $4.8 billion (18 %)
  • Art works and events: $3.1 billion (11 %)
  • Photographic materials and services: $1.8 billion (6 %)
  • Movie tickets: $1.2 billion (4 %)
  • Art supplies and musical instruments: $1.1 billion (4 %)

Cultural spending per capita varies significantly between the provinces and is highest in Alberta ($963) and Saskatchewan ($905). The five western-most provinces (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario) have per capita levels of cultural spending that are above the Canadian average ($841).

Alberta saw the greatest growth in consumer spending, both on cultural goods and services and other products and services.

Among 12 metropolitan areas, Calgary and Saskatoon have the highest per capita consumer spending on cultural goods and services.

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C) Number of cultural workers (artists, administrators and volunteers) and revenue

 Statistical Profile of Artists in Canada Based on the 2006 Census, Hill Strategies Research, February 2008, identifies 9 categories of artistic professions:

  • Actors and comedians
  • Craftspersons
  • Visual artists (painters, sculptors and other visual artists)
  • Authors and writers
  • Conductors, composers and arrangers
  • Dancers
  • Musicians and singers
  • Other performing artists
  • Producers, directors, choreographers and assimilated staff

All categories combined, the arts sector comprises 140,000 people. If we look at the cultural sector as a whole (including, for example, bookstores and architects), the number rises to 609,000 people, or 3.3% of the active population of Canada. By way of comparison, 257,000 people are employed by Canadian banks.

According to the same study, workers in the artistic sector (in the nine categories mentioned above) earn an average of $22,700 annually. Since the average salary of all of the active population is $36,300, the average gap is 37%.

This difference is further accentuated when we look at the annual median salary according to the Hill Strategies study,

« The median is a measure of the earnings of a “typical” worker in various occupations. Half of individuals have earnings that are less than the median value, while the other half has earnings greater than the median. The median is less influenced than the average (or  “mean”) by extreme highs or lows, such as a few individuals reporting very large incomes. As a consequence, median earnings are typically lower than average earnings.

Median revenue in Canada is $26,900 while the median revenue of arts professionals is $12,900 (a gap of 52%). Median income is so low that it is lower by 36% than the low income cut-off (LICO) figure of $20,800. Within the nine arts professions, producers/directors/choreographers have the highest median income ($43,776) while visual artists ($13,976) and dancers ($13,167) have the lowest.

Women represent 53% of arts professionals, but their average income ($19,200) is lower by 28% than that of men ($26,700).

Immigrant artists earn an average salary of $20,877, visible minority artists $18,796 and Aboriginal artists $15,883. The average income of Aboriginal artists is lower by 30% than that of artists overall, and 39% lower than the active Aboriginal population of Canada.

Provincial comparisons
The study Artists in the Provinces and Territories of Canada, (Hill Strategies, March, 2009), compares the situation of artists by province.

According to the study Caring Canadians, Involved Canadians, (Statistics Canada, June 2009), 3% of the population is involved in volunteer work in arts organizations. Arts volunteers work an average of 107 hours annually.

In another study, Satellite Account of Non-Profit Institutions and Volunteering, (December, 2009)Statistics Canada evaluated that volunteer hours accounted for 64% of the work accomplished in arts and recreation organizations. The financial value of these hours is assessed at $3.6 billion.

Remuneration of administrators in the arts
According to the National Compensation Study – 2009 Update for Management and Administration in Not-for-Profit Arts Organizations, published by Deloitte for the Cultural Human Resources Council, “While these are positive signs for the arts sector, the study also confirmed that 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”

The study adds that “Organizations with an operating budget of under $1,000,000 (making up 75% of the respondents of the study) are working with very limited resources, helping to explain why one of the most commonly stated organizational challenges in the study was understaffing combined with overwork.

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D) Contribution of the arts to Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

The most comprehensive study on the contribution of the arts to the Canadian economy is Valuing Culture: Measuring and Understanding Canada’s Creative Economy, published by the Conference Board of Canada in August 2008

The Conference Board estimates that the economic contribution of the cultural sector is $46 billion annually, which represents 3.8% of the total GDP.

The amount of the GDP increases considerably when we look at indirect effects (for example, the costs of building a theatre) and the later round effects (expenses and investments of the earnings of employees and owners in the cultural sector) of cultural activity. Taking into account indirect and later round effects, the Conference Board estimates that the economic print of the cultural sector is actually $84.6 billion or 7.4% of the Canadian GDP.

This multiplying effect in the cultural sector means that for each dollar produced by the sector, $1.84 is added to the GDP.

Again, according to the Conference Board, in 2007 the cultural sector produced $25 billion in taxes for the three levels of government. This figure is three times higher than government spending on culture that year ($8.2 billion).

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E) Exports and cultural tourism


According to Valuing Culture: Measuring and Understanding Canada’s Creative Economy (Conference Board of Canada, August 2008), Canada exported almost $5 billion in cultural goods and services in 2007, which represents 1% of the country’s total exports.

Canada continues to post a trade deficit in cultural goods and services of approximately $2 billion (imports in culture stand at $7 billion).

Cultural tourism

The most recent Statistics Canada data in cultural tourism spending date back to Canadian Culture in Perspective (2000). At the time, tourists in Canada spent $760 million on cultural activities. Of this number, the national demand represents $202 million while American tourists spent $400 million and the balance of foreign tourist made up $157 million.

The American organization the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (source) paints the following portrait of the cultural tourist:

  • Spends more;
  • Travels longer;
  • More likely to spend more than $1000 during travels;
  • 30% of cultural tourists choose their destination on the basis of a specific cultural event.

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F) Government spending on culture

In April, 2012, Statistics Canada published the figures for federal, provincial/territorial and municipal government spending on culture for fiscal 2009-10.

  • The combined cultural spending of the three levels of government came to $9.59 billion
  • The federal government spent $4.16 billion on culture in 2009-10
  • Broadcasting accounted for the biggest share (46.7%) of total federal spending, followed by the heritage sector (29.5 %) and the arts (7.2%).
  • Provincial and territorial governments spent $3.02 billion and municipal governments pent $2.95 billion on culture in 2009-10

Click here for the list of all tables detailing expenditures for fiscal 2009-10.

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G) Arts Engagement

A 2011 Ontario Arts Engagement study reveals that virtually every takes part in arts activities of some sort. Highlights include:

  • the home is the most common setting for arts activities
  • most of the top 10 activities that the Ontario population is engaged in are media-based (film, TV, Internet, radio, etc.)
  • young age groups (under 35) have a high level of engagement with online art forms 
  • media-based engagement corresponds to higher levels of attendance at live events
  • visible minorities and Aboriginal peoples have higher overall levels of active participation especially active participation
  • respondents who are more connected to their own cultural heritage are more likely to be engaged in arts activities overall

Jennifer Novak-Leonard and Alan Brown introduce a new framework for understanding arts participation in their 2011 study Beyond attendance: A multi-modal understanding of arts participation. They suggest that arts participation can be understood as occurring in multiple modes, sometimes overlapping:

  1. arts attendance
  2. personal arts creation and performance
  3. arts participation through electronic media

In his paper Venues and Settings, and the Roles they Play in Shaping Patterns of Arts Participation Alan Brown talks about how different and varied settings can have a profound impact on arts participation. Artists and arts organizations are choosing to create and present art in a wider range of settings and venues that both animate the art and capture the imagination of audiences in new ways.

A 2010 study from Australian Government on Arts Participation provides insights on the attitudes and values that influence our creative participation. An overwhelming 93% of Australians have participated in the arts and 91% agree that arts should be an important part of the education of every Australian.

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