Most young professionals (YPs) would probably say Toronto has a thriving arts scene, right? We all know that on most given nights, there is likely a stage performance, gallery opening, ballet or opera happening simultaneously. A creative hub, Toronto has the most artists in Canada – 66 per cent more than any other Canadian city – and employs 25 per cent of Canada’s creative sector workers. In fact, employment in the creative sector has grown by 47 per cent in the past 25 years. Toronto, however, lags behind all other Canadian municipalities in the growth of its arts and culture funding, and on Tuesday, November 13th, the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA) was at City Hall to drive home the importance investing in the arts to city councillors.
TAPA represents the voice of theatre, dance and opera in Toronto, uniting all disciplines to celebrate and strengthen the performing arts in our city. The organization believes that a city is enriched by culture and that increased investment in the arts as key to solving some of Toronto’s most challenging social issues like unemployment and divisions of income. We were in-house as the results of the TAPA Stats Report Phase III were presented to the City Council on what was the 3rd Annual Arts Day at the City.
The report, which was completed in partnership with the Strategic Counsel, includes statistics for the theatre, dance and opera industries that date back to 2004. It measures things like audience behaviour and attitudes and ticket sales. The research wasn’t horrible, with Toronto’s arts scene holding steady, but it wasn’t incredibly thrilling either and pointed to opportunities to grow, with the support of the city. The full report may be downloaded here, but in a nutshell…
– There has been a drop in ticket sales in recent years. The peak year in ticket sales was in 2005/06.
– An impact of a decrease in revenue generated in ticket sales could be on the increased prevalence of subscriptions and increased reliance on subscriptions to generate revenue.
– On the plus side, the amount of donations for arts and culture organizations has risen and Toronto is active on the fundraising side of things, but this is obviously linked to the financial health of the economy, businesses and individuals.
– The rental income generated through art institutions is above $200 million in rental, but we are cautioned that this is still not optimal.
– There has been a significant increase in revenue from government, some from initiatives like tourism projects.
– In 2011, over 18.2 million people attended City-programmed or City-funded cultural events, with culture a major driver of tourism, attracting four times more visitors than sports attractions.
– Many arts and culture organizations are not in tune with the operations of the website (most have no idea how many hits their sites receive) and also are not using social media to their full advantage to create a dialogue with the audience, relying on it instead as an outward facing model.
– There has been an increase in online ticket sales.
– There has been an increase in high school groups who attend performances, in an attempt to expose the younger generation to the arts early.
macIDeas Culture Producer & Grey Goose Notable Marcello Cabezas was also in attendance, and took part in the meetings with City Councillors as part of the day.
“We are at a time where councillors, citizens and artists should all agree that championing a city committed to arts vibrancy makes logical sense. The business results, long term city building, and the quality of life benefits are all proven. It’s like the prettiest gift the city has been given.” he said.
“These results and recommendations have been agreed to for almost 10 years now. We are at a critical time in our cities development. Either we commit to strategies and tactics, focusing on growth in this sector, and emerge as one of the true culture epicentres of the world with the economic benefits being obvious? Or we squander the gift that this city has been given and never reach Toronto’s potential. I believe we all want the former. So let’s just get this done, commit some more dollars to the culture sector and focus on what is needed to get to the finish line before it’s too late.”
The decline in ticket sales could be linked to the aging Baby Boomer population and there is therefore a need to target the new generation of theatregoers. The current arts climate in Toronto is faced with a challenge to explore new niches, new audiences and audiences with different tastes. We YPs then are at the forefront of the prosperity and growth of Toronto’s arts scene. We chatted with Sue Edworthy of the TAPA Arts Advocacy Committee, who offered a little insight as to how young people can get involved in the cause. The answer was simple: Explore theatre, dance and opera.
“Young people may automatically think theatre is a costly option,” she tells us, “but there are attainable ways to see theatre, dance and opera that won’t break the bank.” She points to the Fringe Festival, with its $10 tickets, as well as January’s Next Stage Festival, curated by Fringe, where tickets are $15 each. Many theatres also offer “Pay What You Can Nights” throughout the week, and a website called TOTix.ca offers half price tickets.
Still, with Toronto’s thriving culinary scene, countless parties and even amplified home entertainment opportunities, a problem is that we have almost too many options when it comes to leisure time and taking advantage of the city. Some young people are still apprehensive when it comes to theatre, dance and opera.
“A lot of people are still closed-minded to the theatre,” says Edworthy. “They may have seen one show they didn’t particularly like, and then they assume they won’t like all theatre. Have you ever read a book or seen a film you didn’t like?” She tells us that people who attend theatre were typically exposed to it at a young age.
In addition to an increase in ticket sales, however, it is also essential to see an increase in government funds. Nearly ten years since the city’s Culture Plan was adopted, TAPA continues to urge Council to commit to the $25 per capita arts and culture funding target it set out for itself back in 2003. In closing the presentation, City Councillor Michael Thompson told the crowd of arts enthusiasts and fellow city councillors that it was “time to focus on the opportunities as opposed to a focus on the challenges.” The solution is collaboration, he said, between the City, arts and business, saying the report “offers a platform to look forward.” It was a unanimous consensus in the room that culture is an essential part of Toronto’s internationally competitive economy, with the city having the ability to have a culture-driven economy akin to that of London and New York. Cultural vibrancy is a direct metric when determining global ranking on innovation, competitiveness, livability and prosperity…and we want our city to have it all, don’t we?