Over the years, I’ve heard people disregard the Canadian arts scene as a “true business”; one that doesn’t “pull in the bucks” or contribute to a strong economy. It might be seen as an industry in which a handful of people paint, sculpt, perform magic, or sing and dance to loved ones and a moderate YouTube following.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Canadian arts and culture serves as an entryway to a prosperous economy securing people financially — and providing them with an outlet to unwind.
But what counts as arts and culture, specifically?
It’s not just influential singers dominating the airwaves, dancers gracing a stage, or big-time comedy festival performers; it’s the exhibitions and recitals you gaze at and listen to in libraries, of which artists have dedicated their lives to the creation and staging.
Culture is the heritage resources, archives and historical organizations, independent film festivals, and exquisite artwork which has defined our the high culture of our generation.
According to Statistics Canada, $7.7 billion was invested collectively from the municipal, provincial and federal governments in 2010. This employed 600,000 people in the arts and culture sector, producing $40 billion for the Canadian economy — a 500 per cent return on investment.
In reality, Canadian’s cultural sector in monumental. It employ as many people as the agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, oil and gas industries combined.
Todd Hirsch, chief economist at ATB Financial in Calgary and author of The Boiling Frog Dilemma: Saving Canada’s Economy, concluded that, next to New York and California, the province of Ontario houses the third largest entertainment economy in the world.
Canadian tourists who partook in arts-related activities in 2009 — watching a production in a village, attending a concert, or exploring heritage buildings — generated $3 billion for the Canadian economy alone.
Believe it or not, investing in the arts helped Canada to climb out of the 2008 recession.
Simon Brault, senior director of the Canadian Council for the Arts and former president of Culture Montreal, vocalized that the gross domestic product share in 2007 catapulted by 4.4 per cent, when $400 million was spent on arts and cultural activities: namely sidewalk show, plays and music festivals.
Even though people weren’t spending money on anything during that time, the sector produces domestic products and services, rather than relying on international trading.
By purchasing a ticket to the Stratford Festival or Big Music Fest, a season pass to a theatre, or pottery from an artist-in-residence, you’re contributing to the growth and stability of the Canadian economy by investing in a very profitable sector. If one year of regular arts engagement can produce $40 billion, imagine what five or 10 years of investment can do!