Ontario Arts Engagement Study Shows Depth and Variety to How Arts are Part of the Lives of Most Ontarians

photo credit: calrla dance via Flickr

TORONTO, October 13, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - The Ontario Arts Council (OAC) has released the findings of its commissioned report, the Ontario Arts Engagement Study, by the research firm WolfBrown.

The study reveals the multi-faceted and widespread nature of how Ontarians engage in the arts around the province and that virtually all Ontarians take part in arts activities of some sort.

It explores the full spectrum of arts activities from traditional attendance-based activities (such as attending performing arts events or visiting an art gallery) to personal practice activities (such as playing a musical instrument, painting, or taking dance lessons) and includes arts participation via electronic, print and digital media (such as radio, television or the Internet).

In addition, the study explores the importance of these arts activities to Ontarians, the settings in which arts activities take place, the relationships between personal arts practice and attendance, and the patterns of engagement across regions and demographic groups such as age and gender.

"Overall these results point to the extensiveness and depth of involvement in the arts across the province," said John Brotman OAC Executive Director. "Almost all Ontarians are engaged in the arts in some way."


A Population Actively Participating in the Arts:

...Many Ontarians actively participate in the arts - expressing themselves through artistic creation and interpretation in a variety of personal activities - 43 per cent of Ontarians dance socially at least once a year, over a third (36 per cent) take photographs with artistic intentions, one quarter paint, draw or make other original art, 24 per cent engage in textile crafts, 24 per cent make other crafts like pottery, jewelry or work with wood, glass or metal, 22 per cent of Ontarians play a musical instrument, 17 per cent write fiction, short stories or poetry, and 14 per cent make original videos or films.

...The home is the main setting for arts participation - The home is the predominant setting for Ontarians engaging in music, dance and visual arts/crafts/film. While traditional arts venues (like theatre or concert facilities and museums/galleries) remain common settings, much arts participation takes place in informal settings like parks and outdoor spaces, bars/nightclubs, community centres and places of worship.

...Involvement in participatory activities is linked to attendance at audience-based activities - Overall, people who engage in participatory arts activities are more likely to attend audience or visitor-based activities - sometimes at a rate of two or three times higher than those who do not engage in participatory activities. For example, Ontarians who play a musical instrument attend concerts by professional musicians twice as frequently as those who don't play an instrument.

A Population Whose Arts Engagement Shows Depth and Variety:

...Arts engagement is multi-faceted and widespread - 98 per cent of Ontarians engage at least once a year in music activities; 98 per cent engage in visual arts, crafts or film activities; and 64 per cent of Ontarians participate at least once a year in theatre activities.

...Media-based arts engagement plays a pivotal role in arts engagement - 90 per cent of Ontarians listen to music on a local radio station, and 88 per cent of Ontarians read paperback or hardcover books for enjoyment; 75 per cent of Ontarians of age 18 to 35 download music at least once a year or more.

...A majority of Ontarians attend professional audience-based activities at least once a year or more - 60 per cent of Ontarians attend professional music concerts at least once a year; 55 per cent attend professional stage plays or musicals; and 51 per cent visit art museums or art galleries.

...Ontarians place a high value on live arts experiences - While media-based participation is more widespread, Ontarians attach a relatively higher level of importance to attending live events such as visiting art museums and attending plays. For example, among Ontarians who reported visiting an art museum or art gallery at least once in the past year, 80 per cent described this activity as being very important to them.

Patterns of engagement often differ across regions and demographic groups:

...Arts engagement is generally higher for Ontarians of colour - Driven primarily by overall higher levels of engagement in community-based arts activities and arts learning activities (such as taking lessons or classes). However, it's important to note that patterns of participation differ across specific racial/cultural groups.

...Urban area residents (in particular those living in the City of Toronto) are generally more engaged - However, the differences between urban and rural engagement are largely within the audience-based activities such as attending live performing arts and visiting art galleries. Engagement in inventive and interpretive activities, community-based arts events, and media-based participation is relatively equivalent between urban and rural Ontarians.

...Online participation is a central aspect of the arts participation of younger adults - For example, 75 per cent of Ontarians age 18 to 35 download music at least once a year or more. In addition, Ontarians ages 18 to 35 are twice as likely to be engaged in personal practice activities, such as playing a musical instrument, as those over 65.

Additional Detail:

...Interest in cultural heritage correlates strongly with higher levels of engagement - Ontarians who are interested in their own cultural heritage, or learning more about the cultural heritage of others, have much higher levels of engagement in the arts.

...Room to grow - The results suggest that opportunities exist for increasing the engagement among those who are interested but participate infrequently in the arts. In most types of activities, approximately 20 per cent of Ontarians account for about half of all engagement.

"This research builds our understanding of the relationship between the professional not-for-profit arts sector and the broader community," said principal researcher Alan Brown of WolfBrown. "It suggests some exciting opportunities for arts organizations to further develop and deepen their relationships with audiences and visitors in innovative ways."


Click here to access the Summary and the full WolfBrown report.

The Ontario Arts Engagement Study was commissioned by the Ontario Arts Council and led by Alan Brown of WolfBrown, based on his previous work in California and Philadelphia. Data collection was undertaken by Ipsos Reid in May and June of 2011 through a random digit dialing of Ontario residents 18 years or older. The total sample included a general population sample of 1,300 and booster sample of certain sub-populations of interest. Weighting was applied to create a representative sample of Ontarians. Results for the overall main sample are accurate within +/- 2.7 per cent at a 95 per cent confidence level. Intervals are larger for smaller sub-samples.

The Ontario Arts Council (OAC) is the province of Ontario's primary funding body for professional arts activity. Since 1963, the OAC has played a vital role in promoting and assisting the development of the arts and artists for the enjoyment and benefit of Ontarians.