Solid payoff from arts funding helps business: national survey

Apr 09 2015 | Posted in Newsletter

Via Winnipeg Free Press

Company Dancers Liang Xing and Sophia Lee. Photo by Joe Bryska.
Company Dancers Liang Xing and Sophia Lee. Photo by Joe Bryska.

Investing in arts and culture is good for business, the results of a new national survey say.

The survey of Canadians and Canadian businesses, which was conducted on behalf of Toronto-based Business for the Arts (BftA), found more than half (52 per cent) of Canadians said they favour businesses that invest in arts and culture.

And in the case of people who donate to the arts themselves, that number soars to 80 per cent, BftA president and CEO Nichole Anderson said Tuesday.

It also found Canadians are heavily engaged in the arts, and are more likely to choose arts and cultural events over sports events.

Other key findings were the primary reason most companies cite for investing in the arts and culture is they think it benefits their community. Also, business investment in the arts in Canada has grown by 49 per cent since 2008, compared with a 15 per cent increase in investment by governments.

Anderson admitted she was surprised by some of the findings, and she suspects others will be, as well.

“I think there has been a perception that perhaps the business community is not as engaged in the arts and doesn’t care about the arts,” she said.

“There is also a perception in the arts (community) that people don’t care about the arts. But our research is showing Canadians are highly engaged in the arts and they highly value the arts. And interestingly, companies (that invest in the arts), as well.”

BftA, which is a non-profit association of business members who support the arts in Canada, undertook the in-depth study to gauge the level of public interest in the arts, as well as the business community’s commitment to investing in arts and culture. It also wanted a clearer picture of how society and communities benefit from increased investment in arts and culture—something the business community also has been requesting.

Now the study results are in, BftA, in partnership with Aimia, Deloitte, Enbridge, the Canada Council and the Ontario Trillium Foundation, is holding a series of roundtable discussions over the spring and summer in eight Canadian cities to discuss the findings and to get feedback from business, government and arts organizations.

The first closed-door session was held Tuesday in Winnipeg, with about 35 business, government, and arts-community representatives attending the two-hour session. Among the arts groups represented were the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

Jan Belanger, vice-president of community relations for the Winnipeg-based Great-West Life Assurance Co., was one of the business representatives who participated in the discussion.

“It was very beneficial, and I would say that everyone in that room felt the same way,” she said in a later interview.

She said it was also gratifying to hear more Canadian companies are starting to grasp and appreciate some of the societal benefits that can result from having a thriving arts and culture sector.

“I think for companies like ours, that have invested in the arts for many, many years, we tend to see that social impact,” she said. “So it (the study’s findings) was very validating for many of those in the room.”

Anderson said while Canadian businesses are increasing their investment in the arts, the study showed they also believe government support of the arts is essential.

She noted only 23 per cent of the large companies surveyed said they would increase their support if government cuts occur.

“The data illustrates the hybrid nature of arts funding in Canada, with the important role of public-sector investment in providing stability for arts organizations as they continue to forge new partnerships with the private sector,” she added.

Real benefits to society

Here are some of the societal benefits Canadians and Canadian businesses say can result from engagement in the arts:

  • It helps to improve creativity.
  • It has a positive impact on health and well-being.
  • It improves academic performance.
  • It helps children from disadvantaged communities succeed.
  • It makes for more integrated and healthier communities.
  • It creates greater empathy and understanding.

—source: Business for the Arts

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 8, 2015 0