Analysis: The Visual Arts Landscape Seen Through CADAC

CADAC in the ecosystem (missing text: universities and colleges, and collectors)

The study titled  The Visual Arts Landscape in Canada as seen through CADAC 2011-2012 prepared by the Research and Evaluation Office of the Canada Council for the Arts provides many answers while also raising a few questions. We learn that museums receive 88% of public financing, or $128,400,000, while artist-run centres receive only 10%, or $14,600,000. Budgets for the 88 artist-run centres reporting to CADAC do not exceed $750,000 a year, which is also the case with 58 museums and public galleries; however 65 of these institutions have budgets ranging from $750,000 to $7M.

The number of Canadian artists exhibited by all types of institutions totals 90%, which is higher than a similar number reported in Les centres d’artistes en arts visuels. Profil économique 2009-2010, a study conducted by The Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec (CALQ). According to the CALQ study, only 75% of exhibitions in these institutions are by Québécois and Canadian artists. In the same CALQ study, the 43 artist-run centres paid $547,000 in artist fees while the CADAC study reports the 88 artist-run centres paid $2,3M in fees (23 are located in Québec) which is double the amount reported by CALQ. In addition, CADAC claims that artist fees represent 16% of the total expenditures of artist-run centres (or, 24% of the artistic expenditure): this number is quite surprising as it would mean that a centre with a budget of $200,000 spends $32,000 a year in artist fees. I am a little suspicious of this result! We may want to verify what exactly is meant by artist “fee”.

Although the attendance numbers have been called into question possibly because many artist-run centres do not pay close attention to this value, I would argue that many centres actually treat this statistic with much respect. It’s not usual for statisticians to dismiss data representing large numbers even if the reporting of this data can present some irregularities. In addition, the distribution of visitors according to budgets is consistent with the number of institutions in each category, that is, artist-run centres receive some 1,102,457 visitors while museums, 6,725,982. It leaves one wondering how CADAC, on page 5, arrives at a total attendance of 11.5 milion visitors !

Do artist-run centres really do more with less ? Not so sure. The CADAC data indicates that 18 museums and 61 centres have budgets of less than $250,000. The percentage of exhibitions closely follows the respective percentage of museums and centres: 18 museums of 122, representing 9% of all museums, organise 14% of all exhibitions, (doing more than artist-run centres with the same budget?), while 61% of artist-run centres out of 88, representing 72% of the total, organise 67% of exhibitions.

We also learn that museums produced 486 publications while artist-run centres produced 773 which is somewhat surprising! CADAC cautions about interpreting this data. Agreed. This data could be used with or without scruples!

Lastly, the trends and distribution of revenues are interesting. Artist-run centres receive 28% of federal funding while museums only receive 5% which equals to $6.7M allocated to artist-run centres and some $13M to museums. The greatest difference resides in earned and private revenues representing 26% of artist-run centres and 51% of museums overall incomes.

The study provides further data including the number of art education activities, artist residencies, volunteers etc. I encourage you to read it and share your conclusions with us. Download the study PDF here.

Bastien Gilbert, November 2014