Hill Strategies Research on Visual Arts and Museums

In this issue of Hill Strategies' Arts Research Monitor: A focus on the visual arts and museums, including a report on the situation of art galleries in Ontario, a statistical summary of museum attendance in Quebec, and two papers on the state of the visual arts in Canada.

Ontario Association of Art Galleries Data Exchange

Hill Strategies Research Inc., November 2014
Author: Kelly Hill

The goal of the research outlined in this presentation was to provide “reliable, detailed data on public art galleries across Ontario”, thereby influencing art gallery sector analysis as well as organizations’ benchmarking and future planning.

A detailed online survey was completed by 47 Ontario art galleries, representing 64% of the member galleries of the Ontario Association of Art Galleries (OAAG). A qualitative section of the survey gathered information on key successes and challenges identified by gallery directors. The most commonly identified success was community engagement (selected by 30 directors), followed by exhibitions (23) and financial health or revenue generation (also 23). Two challenges were most commonly identified: “facilities, physical plant” (29 directors) and financial health or revenue generation (28).

Some of the statistical highlights from 2013 include:

  • The presentation of 667 exhibitions involving over 3,400 artists.
  • Total attendance of 2.8 million people.
  • Over 850,000 participants in the galleries’ arts education programs.
  • 1,456 staff members, compared with 4,789 volunteers.
  • Total operating revenues of $172 million and operating expenses of $162 million.
  • A net surplus of $3 million (after adjustments for amortization and other items).

In 2013, the largest share of Ontario galleries’ revenues came from government funding (56% of total revenues), followed by earned revenues (27%), private sector fundraising (13%), and other revenue sources (4%). The largest component of operating expenditures were artistic expenses (41% of the total allocated toward, for example, artist fees, salaries for artistic, production, and technical staff, exhibition costs, and expenses related to catalogues and publications), followed by administrative expenditures (25%), facility operating costs (23%), marketing and communications expenses (7%), and fundraising costs (5%).

Based on data from 23 galleries that reported in both 1993 and 2013, the presentation outlines important changes over time in Ontario art galleries. Between 1993 and 2013, total attendance increased by 69% despite a 19% reduction in the number of exhibitions at the galleries. Permanent collections nearly doubled in size between 1993 and 2013. The number of full-time staff members increased by 4%, but the number of part-time staff members decreased by 30%.

The presentation indicates that “art galleries have significantly diversified their revenue sources since 1993”. As a percentage of total revenues, public sector funding decreased from 84% in 1993 to 58% in 2013 (for the 23 galleries reporting in both years). Private sector and earned revenues both increased in importance. Private sector fundraising increased from 4% of total revenues in 1993 to 11% in 2013, while earned revenues increased from 12% in 1993 to 28% in 2013. The 1993 survey did not ask galleries to identify other revenue sources. These sources represented 3% of total revenues in 2013.

Adjusted for inflation, these financial changes mean that:

  • For every $1 in total revenues in 1993, the galleries had $1.77 in total revenues in 2013.
  • For every $1 in government revenues in 1993, the galleries received $1.22 in 2013.
  • For every $1 in earned revenues in 1993, the galleries generated $4.16 in 2013.
  • For every $1 in private sector fundraising 1993, the galleries raised $5.15 in 2013.

The full Statistical Profile of Art Galleries in Ontario is available for $30 from OAAG.


Attendance at Quebec museums and heritage organizations in 2012 and 2013

Observatoire de la culture et des communications du Québec, Optique culture no. 32, May 2014
Author: Christine Routhier

This report highlights attendance statistics at 440 Quebec museums, interpretive centres, and exhibition spaces (excluding artist-run centres). In 2013, total attendance was 14.2 million, the highest level since the Observatoire began this survey in 2003. Excluding off-site attendance at museum events in public places, total attendance was 13.3 million in 2013, which was also a record high.

Total attendance at 22 art museums was 1.8 million in 2013, which was a record high since the start of the survey in 2003. Between 2003 and 2013, art museum attendance in Quebec increased by 38%, the largest increase of any type of museum or heritage organization.

In 2013, school attendance represented 6% of the 1.8 million in total attendance at art museums, close to the average of 7% for all museums and heritage organizations. Off-site attendance represented 5% of the total for art museums, slightly below the average of 7% for all museums and heritage organizations.

The report divides the 440 responding organizations into three groups based on subject matter. Arts-related organizations (including art museums and arts-related exhibition centres) accounted for 17% of the overall attendance figure in 2013 (2.4 million), behind science-related organizations (35%, or 5.4 million) and historical, ethnological, and archaeological organizations (45%, or 6.4 million).

The report also highlights the importance of the summer season for Quebec museums and heritage organizations. For all survey respondents, July and August represent 37% of total attendance.


Re-visioning the visual arts

Summary report
Visual Arts Alliance, September 2011

Based on discussions at the Kingston Colloquium of the Visual Arts Alliance in 2011, this position paper attempts to identify “ways to make the visual arts more central in the lives of Canada and Canadians”.

The colloquium heard from Jeff Melanson, then co-CEO of the National Ballet School, who presented three key points:

  • There is a decrease in art programs in the education system despite evidence of “a direct correlation between exposure to the arts in school and involvement later in life”.
  • “The arts tend to segregate themselves, which creates barriers for the public.”
  •  Attracting private sector funding is critical to the success of arts organizations, as growth in private sector fundraising has outpaced public sector funding.

Five key themes emerged from the colloquium debates:

1. Regarding the place of artists and creativity, a need was expressed to “affect artists’ ability to earn a living”, in part by “examining the working relationships between artists and galleries to see how they can be made more productive”. The paper identified improving the livelihood of artists as the “biggest challenge and opportunity”.

2. “The centrality of the authentic visual arts experience” was highlighted, with a focus on the need “to find new ways to make the visual arts real and appealing to Canadians”.

3. Visual arts education was emphasized, with the report arguing that “real innovation is needed” in order to “develop awareness and appreciation of the importance of the creative experience in human development and in achieving a full and rewarding life”.

4. Regarding the “public perception of the visual arts”, the report argues that more effective ways must be found to communicate and promote “the excitement of Canadian art so that the public does not feel mystified by it”.

5. The importance of visual arts markets was stressed, including finding “ways to increase sales of visual art works at home and abroad”.

Based on these findings, it was recommended that the Visual Arts Alliance create “three task forces to address impacting public arts education, creating a national arts appreciation campaign and improving the arts economy”.


The Visual Arts in Canada: A Synthesis and Critical Analysis of Recent Research

Institut national de la recherche scientifiqueAuthor: Guy Bellavance

Commissioned by the Visual Arts Alliance with a financial contribution from the Canada Council for the Arts, this literature review attempts to provide a synthesis of existing research in the visual arts in Canada and to identify gaps in this research. The report notes that the goal was not to outline the state of the visual arts sector in Canada but rather the state of research into the visual arts in the country.

The report acknowledges the difficulty in defining and circumscribing the visual arts: “The very concept of the visual arts is … continually changing, and presently there is disagreement as to what constitutes the field.” Despite this challenge, the report offers a “working definition” of the visual arts as “a sector of professional practices intended to facilitate the production of works of visual art”.

The report identifies five key mechanisms involved in the visual arts sector and examines existing research in each area:

  • “The school as a mechanism of professional training and visual arts education”.
  • Public funding agencies that provide “grants to individual artists and arts organizations”.
  • “Museums as mechanisms for collecting and exhibiting Canadian works of art.”
  • “The art market as a mechanism for selling artworks.”
  • “Professional groups as mechanisms for bringing together sector stakeholders.”

Overall, the report found there to be a “lack of studies designed to provide an overall analysis of the visual arts sector in Canada”. Research that does exist tends to be “episodic, fragmentary and without an overall trajectory”. Within each of the five key mechanisms, there are many research gaps.

To help close some of the gaps, the report recommends that there be:

  • “More effective, nationwide professional training and arts education data gathering”.
  • “The development of a body of independent expertise on the state of the school system”, including masters’ programs in the visual arts as well as analyses of the time and content of visual arts programs from elementary school through graduate-level university education.
  • “An inventory of professional training opportunities” that are offered outside of the formal school system.


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