Arts & Culture

“The ability to attract creative people in arts and culture fields and to be open to diverse groups of people of different ethnic, racial and lifestyle groups provides distinct advantages to regions in generating innovations, growing and attracting high-technology industries, and spurring economic growth.”

– Meric Gertler and Richard Florida

The arts are central to a healthy and vibrant community. They educate, inform and reflect who and what we are as a community. They are part of the very fabric that binds us together. They are also a key employment sector in the region with over 190,000 culture jobs in Toronto and their strength will be important as Toronto positions itself as a centre to attract business and knowledge workers in the coming years.

Toronto is the third largest English language theatre centre in the world after New York and London, and has the third largest number of live music venues in North America. The Toronto International Film Festival is a premier international event in size, scope and appeal. And the new Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts and additions to the Royal Ontario Museum and the Art Gallery of Ontario will enhance the architecture of the city and the global reputation of these institutions.

The arts are chronically under-funded. Most organizations that are surviving are adept at concealing their continuous state of crisis -their burned-out, underpaid staff and their crumbling capital assets. But many do not survive. Within the past 10 years, Toronto has seen at least 30 organizations cease operations altogether, while others are weighed down with large, cumulative deficits.

Over the past decade, the region’s non-profit arts organizations and artists have been challenged by falling levels of government funding, including:

  • A 40 per cent reduction in provincial grants through the Ontario Arts Council from $20.1 million to $12.7 million between 1994 and 2001. The Ontario Arts Endowment Program introduced in 1998 has not offset the funding decline.
  • Federal funding from the Canada Council that, while it grew 30 per cent from 1994 to 2000, went to 74 per cent more organizations and 82 per cent more artists, resulting in virtually no change in funding for the larger organizations – including the five ‘national treasures’ in the Toronto region.
  • The City of Toronto’s support for marquee arts groups fell by 35 per cent, from $3.5 million to $2.3 million, between 1990 and 2002, while the Toronto region’s economy grew 40 per cent.

The Toronto Arts Council estimates that operating revenues of the small to medium sized arts organizations are $45 million per year less than is needed for effective, stable operations. These organizations have a state of good repair deficit of $20 million per year. Even ‘national treasures’ such as the Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario, The Toronto Symphony, The National Ballet and the Canadian Opera Company, which benefit from the provincial SuperBuild program for infrastructure development, are concerned about operating sustainability.

As a way to accelerate change and support good decision-making, Mayor David Miller has convened a Roundtable of Arts and Culture, which began meeting on July, 2004. Members include TCSA Steering Committee members Kevin Garland and Piers Handling. The Roundtable will advise the Mayor and City Council and engage the community on policies, programs and activities that will allow Toronto to realize its potential as a creative city.

We cannot afford to keep under-investing in the arts in the Toronto region. We need to pursue matching funding from the province and federal government from both cultural funding and industrial funding envelopes, and urge higher levels of government to increase operational funding to our national cultural institutions. We will need to look at other North American cities that have enabled significant incremental funding for their arts and culture sector and help adapt the most successful models to fit the needs of our city region.