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Statistical Profile of Artists in Edmonton in 2021
4,800 professional artists in the city, with a very high proportion of women and very low incomes
Using custom data that Hill Strategies requested from Statistics Canada’s 2021 long-form census, this article examines the demographics, employment situations, and incomes of artists in Edmonton. The article also provides summary information about workers in arts leadership occupations and all occupations in the arts, culture, and heritage (a category that includes artists and arts leaders). Comparisons are provided with all workers in Edmonton and all artists in Alberta.
This article is made possible with the support of Arts Habitat Edmonton. Hill Strategies Research retained full editorial control of the content.
Details of occupational categories and other methods are provided at the end of this post.
Provincial and national context: Artists, arts leaders, and all cultural workers
There are 18,100 professional artists who reside in Alberta, 9% of the 202,900 artists in Canada. As a percentage of the overall labour force, artists represent 0.7% in Alberta and 1.0% in Canada. (An article related to Canadian artists is available, which provides a list of the 10 artist occupation groups.)
56,200 Canadians, including 3,600 Albertans, work in five occupation groups that are classified as arts leaders. Alberta accounts for 6% of Canada’s arts leaders, lower than the province’s 12% share of all workers. For more information on the occupation groups included as arts leaders, please see this Canada-wide article. Readers should note that two arts leadership occupations (conductors / composers and producers / directors / choreographers) are also included as artists. As such, the number of arts leaders should not be added to the number of artists in any jurisdiction.
The broadest analysis relates to the 80,600 Albertans and 914,000 Canadians who work in arts, culture, and heritage occupations. These workers represent 3.3% of Alberta’s labour force and 4.4% of the Canadian labour force. The 52 occupation groups in this category include the ten artist occupation groups, the five arts leadership occupation groups, other cultural occupations (e.g., graphic designers, print operators, editors, translators, architects, and professionals in fundraising, advertising, marketing, and public relations), and heritage occupations (e.g., librarians, curators, and archivists).
4,800 professional artists in Edmonton
The 4,800 artists in Edmonton in 2021 represent 0.8% of the city’s overall labour force, just above the provincial average (0.7%) but just below the national average (1.0%). The concentration of artists in Edmonton is similar to other Prairie cities, including Regina (also 0.8%), Saskatoon (0.9%), Calgary (0.9%), and Winnipeg (0.9%).
In Edmonton, 1 in every 121 workers is a professional artist.
Artists had very low incomes in 2020
Three measurements of the incomes of professional artists are provided here: median employment income, median personal income, and median household income. Employment income shows the work-related earnings of artists; personal income includes all sources of income (including pandemic supports); and household income provides a measure of the family situation of artists.
The median employment income of Edmonton artists was just $12,400 in 2020, which is about one-quarter of the median employment income of all Edmonton workers in the same year ($45,200). Despite the low earnings of artists in the city, their median employment income was slightly higher than the provincial average ($10,700) during a year that was incredibly difficult for many artists.
The graph below shows the median personal incomes of artists and all workers in Edmonton and Alberta. The median personal income of Edmonton artists (from all sources) was $29,200 in 2020, 44% lower than that of all workers in the city ($52,400). The median personal income of local artists is slightly higher than the median for all of Alberta ($28,000). The difference in median personal income between artists and other workers in Edmonton (-44%) is slightly less than the difference in all of Alberta (-47%) but larger than the national difference (-39%).
Edmonton artists, despite significant support from other members of their households, have median household incomes ($97,000) that are 20% lower than other workers in Edmonton ($121,000). The median household income of Edmonton artists is similar to the median of all Alberta artists ($100,000).
Demographic and employment characteristics of Edmonton artists
Among the 4,800 artists in Edmonton:
58% are women (including some transgender and non-binary people), much higher than the proportion of all Edmonton workers (48%) but lower than that of all Alberta artists (62%).
30% have a child at home, lower than the proportions of all Edmonton workers (41%) and all Alberta artists (35%).
6% are Indigenous, similar to the proportions of all Edmonton workers (5%) and all Alberta artists (6%).
21% are members of racialized groups, much lower than the percentage of all Edmonton workers (41%) but higher than that of all Alberta artists (17%).
19% are immigrants to Canada, much lower than the proportion of all Edmonton workers (37%) but similar to that of all Alberta artists (18%).
4% are French speakers (i.e., official language minority), similar to the percentages of all Edmonton workers (3%) and all Alberta artists (3%).
43% have a bachelor’s degree or higher, higher than the proportions of all Edmonton workers (35%) and all Alberta artists (40%).
24% are 55 years of age or older, which is higher than the proportion of all Edmonton workers (20%) but slightly lower than that of all Alberta artists (26%).
70% are self-employed, more than five times the self-employment rate of all Edmonton workers (13%) but similar to the rate of all Alberta artists (72%).
Edmonton artists by occupation and industry
As is the case in most jurisdictions, musicians are the largest artist occupation group in Edmonton, representing nearly one-quarter of the city’s artists. From most to least common, the 4,800 artists in Edmonton include:
1,100 musicians (23% of the city’s artists)
690 writers (14%)
630 photographers (13%)
570 producers, directors, choreographers & related occupations (12%)
460 painters, sculptors & other visual artists (10%)
420 artisans & craftspeople (9%)
320 actors, comedians & circus performers (7%)
310 dancers (7%)
230 other performers (5%)
60 conductors, composers & arrangers (1%)
Artists in the city work in many sectors of the economy. Not surprisingly, the largest proportion works in arts, entertainment, and recreation (33%). Roughly one in every four Edmonton artists work in educational services (24%), but only a low percentage work in the industry category that includes the for-profit cultural industries (12% in “information and cultural industries”). The percentage in information and cultural industries is lower in Edmonton than in 19 of the 20 largest cities in Canada (the exception is Saskatoon at 11%). All other industries, excluding the three largest ones, employ the remaining 32% of Edmonton artists.
Over 1,000 arts leaders in Edmonton
There are 1,050 Edmonton residents who work in five occupation groups that are classified as arts leaders, with the broad grouping of producers, directors, and choreographers accounting for over one-half of them. In Edmonton, there are:
570 producers, directors, choreographers & related occupations (55% of the arts leaders in the city)
180 managers in publishing, motion pictures, broadcasting & performing arts (17%)
160 library, archive, museum & art gallery managers (15%)
80 conservators & curators (7%)
60 conductors, composers & arrangers (5%)
Summary information about cultural workers in Edmonton
There are 21,200 workers in arts, culture, and heritage occupations in Edmonton, representing 3.7% of the 578,900 people in the local labour force, slightly above the provincial average of 3.3%. One in every 27 workers in Edmonton has a cultural occupation.
In 2020, a typical cultural worker in Edmonton had:
Employment income of $42,400, 6% less than all Edmonton workers ($45,200)
Total personal income of $48,800, 7% less than all workers in the city ($52,400)
Household income of $114,000, 6% less than all local workers ($121,000)
The analysis relates to professional workers, but with a very specific concept of professional. The census data on occupations include people who worked more hours as an artist than at any other occupation between May 1 and 8, 2021, plus people who were not in the labour force at that time but had worked more as an artist than at another occupation between January of 2020 and May of 2021. Part-time artists who spent more time at another occupation in May of 2021 would be classified in the other occupation. (The same would be true of workers in arts leadership occupations and all cultural occupations.)
The occupational perspective counts people who work across the economy, as long as they are classified into one of 10 artist occupation groups, 5 arts leadership occupation groups, or 52 cultural occupation groups. Details about the occupation groups included in each of the categories is available in a recent article, which also outlined the methods behind choosing the 52 cultural occupation groups. Another article highlighted some strengths and limitations of the census for counting artists and cultural workers.
To ensure confidentiality and data reliability, no estimates of fewer than 40 people are presented in this article.
The challenging context of the pandemic in the spring of 2021 is important to keep in mind when interpreting census data on artists, which were collected in May of 2021. Income data from the census relate to the 2020 calendar year.