As Toronto approaches a closely watched mayoral election, the Toronto Arts Council is reminding citizens how much they value the arts.
The TAC, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, is launching a campaign it has dubbed “Toronto Loves the Arts.” The campaign, which kicks off next week, is intended to build awareness of the arts in the lead-up to the election. To support it, the affiliated Toronto Arts Foundation is publishing a report listing many of the standard economic benefits of the arts, which contribute $11.3-billion to Toronto’s gross domestic product (GDP), but also stressing how much Torontonians value the arts.
According to the foundation (which has assembled these statistics from a variety of municipal and provincial studies), 70 per cent of Torontonians regularly attend arts events or donate to the arts, and about the same number believe the arts improve quality of life and benefit the community. Sixty-three per cent of Torontonians say arts and cultural opportunities are an important part of their decision to live in the Greater Toronto Area, while 95 per cent of Ontario residents agree the success of Canadian artists gives Canadians a sense of pride.
The report, available as a pamphlet and online, also cites various economic measures of the arts’ impact, and notes how increasingly important cultural industries are becoming. Toronto is home to almost twice as many artists as any other Canadian city; 174,000 Torontonians work in the cultural sector, and that group has grown at twice the rate of the general labour force since 2001. Ontario is the third-largest entertainment economy in North America, after New York and California.
While the TAC now distributes more than $16-million annually to 15,000 different events or creations, Toronto still lags well behind other major Canadian cities in its public investment in the arts. Although city council has set itself the goal of raising municipal arts funding to $25 per citizen, at $22.38 Toronto remains in fifth place, after Montreal and Vancouver, both of which spend more than double that, and Calgary and Ottawa.
The TAC campaign launches at a time when the cultural community is attempting to get the arts onto the mayoral-election agenda. It follows a statement last month by the leaders of the city’s largest performing-arts groups and museums calling for a visionary mayor who would make investments in culture, social services and transit, and challenging citizens to ask candidates hard questions about their plans in these areas.The report is available here.