As we continue the #ThrivingInCulture series on the #InspiredOTF hub we are exploring some of the foundational reports that help us to understand the working conditions for artists and culture workers in Canada. An essential read to better understand the working landscape for visual artists in Canada is Michael Miranda’s research series “Waging Culture”. Maranda is an assistant curator at the AGYU where he focuses on publications and advocacy-based research. In his recent interview with MC Minds podcast he talked about how this research came about and some of the findings that surprised him.
When he started his role at the AGYU he was allowed to devote a certain amount of time for advocacy in the visual arts. He looked at where he could have the most impact and realized that advocacy-based research was where he wanted to focus. Specifically, he was interested in doing statistical analysis to figure out how visual artists survive. As he looked through the existing studies he realized that they are all based on census data and used his research to illustrate how that data source can be misleading in the following ways:
- Statistics Canada data for either the labour survey OR census is based on someone’s primary employment
- We know anecdotally that most artists have day jobs which
a) Often create more income than practice
b). Take more time than their studio practice
- As a result of this most artists would be counted for their day job. Michael estimates that 50% of artists are missed in census research
Just some of the surprising findings from the 2007 & 2012 studies:
- The 2012 study showed a 40% income disparity between male & female artists whereas it’s 15% for the population as a whole
- Looking closely you see it’s a few male artists making a lot of money. When you eliminate those outliers, it gets a bit more equitable
- The commercial/sales sector is stronger than expected, in fact, it’s equal to granting and thus challenges the narrative that there isn’t a well-developed private sector around visual arts in Canada
- The sheer number of artists who are just breaking even from their practice
Maranda is currently doing part 3 of the research using 2017 census data. He hopes that this research will be useful for advocates and serve to inform government policy so that policy can really meet visual artists where they are at.
Here’s where you’ll find all of the research:
Waging Culture 2012: The Socio-Economic Status of Canadian Visual Artists
Waging Culture 2007: The Socio-Economic Status of Canadian Visual Artists
Waging Culture: Snapshot Comparison of 2007 to 2012 Results
Additional reports in the series:
Waging Culture: The Sex Gap (!)
Waging Culture: The Ethnicity Effect
You’ll find all of the Waging Culture Series on The Art Gallery of York University’s website.