Visual arts: $4 billion in direct economic impact in Canada
Current data on a sometimes overlooked sector
This post aims to shed some light on the visual arts, an arts sector that doesn’t always get the same attention as others, especially when talking about economic impacts. (For an excellent analysis of the economic impacts of the performing arts during the pandemic, see CAPACOA’s COVID-19 Impacts page.)
I know of no one who has tracked economic indicators in the visual arts sector. Hence this post.
What are the “visual arts”, based on Statistics Canada’s definitions?
Four areas of the visual arts are the focus of this post: original visual art, art reproductions, photography, and crafts.
As I mentioned in a post two weeks ago, the sector labelled by Statistics Canada as “visual and applied arts” has the second highest economic impact among StatsCan’s groupings, behind only “audiovisual and interactive media”.
The “applied arts” part of this arts domain (as StatsCan refers to the sector groupings) contains some big-impact elements that are of secondary interest to the arts sector: design, advertising, and architecture. Together, these three subdomains make up about three-quarters of the impact on Gross Domestic Product of the visual and applied arts.
The other one-quarter of the grouping (by impact on GDP) includes four areas that will be the focus of this post: original visual art, art reproductions, photography, and crafts. I’ll show the data for each these four areas, as well as my calculations for them as a group (called “visual arts”).
It is important to note that government-owned visual arts centres are excluded from the visual arts calculations (and from other domains). Government-owned facilities have their own category (“governance, funding, and professional support”).
Statistics Canada’s descriptions of the four visual arts subdomains are:
“Original visual art: includes original art such as paintings, drawings, pastels, engravings, prints, lithographs, sculptures and statuary, as well as dissemination services such as commercial art galleries.
Art reproductions: include copies of original visual arts, produced with the use of technology, such as unlimited edition prints, posters, statuettes, and ornaments.
Photography: includes traditional still and digital photography services, covering all fields including portrait, wedding, action, and specialty, commercial and industrial services.
Crafts: includes hand-made artisanal goods from all materials, including textiles, jewellery, pottery, statues, ceramics, furniture, housewares, musical instruments, etc.”
Today’s focus: most recent data
Today, I’ll summarize the impact statistics for 2021, the most recent year. Next week, I’ll look at changes before and during the pandemic.
I’ve analyzed two Statistics Canada sources: National culture and sport indicators by domain and sub-domain (quarterly, from the first quarter of 2012 to the first quarter of 2022, Canada only, newest release on July 8) and Provincial and Territorial Culture Indicators (yearly, from 2010 to 2020, newest release on June 2).
I’ll focus on three measures of the economic impact of the visual arts:
Gross Domestic Product (GDP, or direct economic impact, a measure of net value-added to the economy).
Output (roughly equivalent to total revenues, including multiple counting of revenues that stay within the cultural economy)
Jobs (including both full-time and part-time positions, not on a full-time-equivalent basis)
See the notes at the end of this post for further explanations and definitions.