Hill Strategies Issues Report On Arts and Heritage Access and Availability in Canada

Hill Strategies Research has released a new report, entitled Arts and Heritage Access and Availability Survey 2016-2017. The report, commissioned by the Department of Canadian Heritage, highlights information about arts and heritage attendance, personal arts participation, as well as perceptions of cultural activities and government arts support.

Below is a summary released by Hill Strategies. The full report can be found  here.


Based on a survey of more than 2,000 Canadians (including substantial samples of youth and Indigenous residents), this report highlights information about arts and heritage attendance, personal arts participation, as well as perceptions of cultural activities and government arts support. The report concludes that there is “robust public engagement with arts and culture in Canada”. The core national statistics carry a margin of error of 2.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Nearly nine in ten Canadians attended arts performances or events in 2016 (87%), and almost as many visited heritage institutions (80%). Some common arts activities include:

  • Music performances or concerts (61%)
  • Craft shows or fairs (53%)
  • Arts or cultural festivals in respondents’ local communities (51%)
  • Theatre performances (41%)
  • Non-local arts or cultural festivals (32%)
  • Dance performances (26%)
  • Arts activities “that makes use of film or video, or digital technologies, but not including regular movies in cinemas” (25%)
  • Art collaborations between professional artists and community members (25%)

The most common heritage activities include visiting historic buildings or sites (60% of respondents), museums or science centres (56%), zoos, aquariums, or botanical gardens (51%), and public art galleries (40%). Youth between 16 and 24 were more likely than older respondents to visit all types of heritage venues.

Two-thirds of Canadians used the internet to access or engage in the arts in 2016, with the most common online activities being to “talk about or find out more about an arts or cultural organization, event or artist through social media (45%); to watch a pre-recorded arts performance (41%); or to improve skills, find lessons, or find groups to join related to the arts (38%)”.

About four in ten Canadians (41%) attended or live streamed performances created or performed by members of minority groups, while 14% of Canadians attended a First Nations, Inuit or Métis arts gathering or pow wow in 2016. Among Indigenous respondents, this attendance rate was 46%.

Among those who attended an arts event in 2016, the most common motivation for attendance was to have fun or enjoy themselves (59%), to learn something new (24%), to spend time with friends or family (21%), as well as to have new experiences or discover new artists or art forms (15%). Among those who did not attend an arts event, barriers include a lack of interest (42%) and a lack of time (30%). Only 12% cited cost as a barrier.

Regarding respondents’ involvement in the arts, 53% indicated that they were personally involved in at least one artistic activity in 2016, such as “making photographs or videos as an artistic activity (23%)”, “musical pursuits such as singing, playing a musical instrument, or composing (22%)”, creating visual art (18%), dancing (15%), creative writing (14%), and fine crafts (12%). Youth between 16 and 24 were more likely than older respondents to be involved in creative activities.

As noted in the report, “large majorities of 85 percent or more Canadians agree (either strongly or somewhat) with each of these eight statements about the benefits of arts and culture for society:”

  • “The arts are an important way of helping people think and work creatively” (95%)
  • “Arts experiences are a valuable way of bringing together people from different languages and cultural traditions” (95%)
  • “Arts and cultural activities in a community make it a better place to live” (94%)
  • “Exposure to arts and culture is important to individual wellbeing” (92%)
  • “Canadian actors, musicians, writers and other artists are among best in the world and can hold their own on the world stage" (90%)
  • “The arts and culture help us express and define what it means to be Canadian” (89%)
  • “Arts and cultural activities are important to a community's economic wellbeing” (88%)
  • “It's important to support the arts by volunteering or donating funds or goods” (85%)

The report indicates that, compared with a similar survey conducted in 2012, strong agreement with many of these statements increased between 2012 and 2017.

When asked how important arts and cultural events are to their quality of life and that of their families, 69% of respondents indicated either “very important” (27%) or “somewhat important” (42%). Youth between 16 and 24 are less likely than older respondents to indicate that the arts are “very important” to their quality of life (18%, vs. 28% for those 25 or older).

Regarding the governmental role in culture, nearly nine out of every ten respondents (88%) agree that governments should place a great deal of importance (38%) or a moderate amount of importance (50%) on supporting arts and culture in Canada. Furthermore, a large majority of respondents agree that governments should:

  • Help “protect and preserve Canada's heritage” (95%)
  • Promote “awareness of Canadian arts and cultural events and activities” (90%)
  • Provide “financial support to build and maintain facilities for arts, culture and heritage” (88%)
  • Provide “tax incentives and other measures to encourage private sector support for arts and culture” (84%)
  • Provide “financial support to individual artists to create art” (73%)

The full report contains much more information about the 2017 results and comparisons with a 2012 survey. More than 250 pages of detailed data tables are also available, including provincial (or regional) statistics and demographic breakdowns.


Featured image: Jim Campbell, Scattered Light, Northern Spark, 2011. (Photo: Dusty Hoskovec.)

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