(January 23, 2023) Arts charities in Canada have been among the hardest hit groups during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those dependent on live audiences have seen those audiences disappear.
In its Fall 2020 economic statement, the Government of Canada acknowledged the impact of the pandemic by investing $181.5 million in the Supporting Arts and Live Events Workers in Response to COVID-19 Initiative to stimulate employment, support ongoing operations during the pandemic, and prepare for the sustainable recovery of the sector. Canadian Heritage distributed $65 million, and the remaining $116.5 million was invested through the Canada Council for the Arts.
This report reviews the devastation COVID has wrought upon the arts sector, with a particular focus on artists organization who are designated as charities. Of course, not all artists or arts organizations are designated charities, and we aren’t sure how far the extrapolation of data runs across the entire industry, but by looking at 2018 revenue sources for about 2,500 artists charities we are able to discern some patterns.
Federal government support is important to arts charities, who receive 36% of the annual revenue from all three levels of government, 18.6% from the federal level, 12.3% at the provincial level and 5.0% and the municipal or regional level.
Self-generated revenue such as box office or ticketed revenue comes in second at 30%.
The balance is in philanthropy (tax-receipted donations) at 6.7%, gifts from other charities at 3.7% and sponsorship and other, smaller sources of revenue at a total of 23.7%.
The arts sector has been more affected than any other sector, the loss of its share of the Gross Domestic Product Second only to the transportation industry. One of the largest largest arts charities in Canada, for example, is the Stratford Festival, which operates in the bucolic town of Stratford Ontario and is known worldwide for the quality of its productions. It 2019, the fiscal year prior to COVID-19, the Festival had revenues of $63.2 million. Of that, 60% ($63 million) came from tickets sales and ancillary revenue sources, such as concessions and the gift shop.
The 2019 revenue from sales of goods and services at another one of Canada’s largest arts charities, The Banff Centre, is $70.1 million or 43.7% of its total revenue. It’s revenue from tax-receipted donations was 8.9% ($6.3 million).
According to research compiled by the Canadian Association of the Performing Arts (CAPACOA), “Over three times as many individuals AND organizations report very high or high levels of stress and anxiety today (76% and 79%, respectively) as compared to before COVID-19 (26% and 25%).”
There was an average 50% reduction in the workforce of festivals and events who have had to lay off staff.
At the same time, research has been done that shows the arts plays a vital part in the mental health and wellbeing of a population.
In March 2021, The Canadian Council for the Arts conducted a survey whose findings demonstrated “there is a higher level of self-perceived mental health for people with moderate, high, and very high levels of cultural participation than for those with low levels of cultural participation.”
Clearly, it is a sector needing attention as we consider post-pandemic conditions. The following pages dive into the latest fully available data to provide information on a what a pre-pandemic year looked like in the Arts sector.