Art Makes Life Better
The most important thing about art in our lives is its intrinsic aesthetic value - it makes
life better. In what Statistics Canada calls the arts and cultural industries - the creative and performing arts and the production and industrial arts - are all involved in a continuous never-ending fight for those industries to also be taken seriously in the economic landscape of Canada.
Everyone understands the "quality-of-life" arguments for the arts and culture. We know that; and it is known by all levels of government. We see that on the glossy front covers of brochures and on websites of practically every town, city and province – including ours.
There are pictures of theatres, cultural and indigenous icons, public artworks, ballet dancers and symphony orchestras, along with the pictures of city halls, rail yards and airports, because small "c" culture is fundamentally important to the mix in any civic, provincial or national infrastructure.
Life without art - without music, literature, paintings, sculpture, theatre - even just without show business - would, for most rational people, be impossible to contemplate. But we need to think of arts and culture in a different light, and to convince others to do so - to think of them in a way and in a different context.
The arts are a huge, thriving and growing industry in our country. That is not the important thing about the arts and culture. Those aesthetic values are the most important thing. Civilizations past and present are known to historians, and to their contemporaries, not so much by their bank accounts as by their culture.
But economic importance does count. Partly because of the free trade agreements, the arts and cultural industries in Canada – because industries are what they are - have been under intense scrutiny over the past 10 years or so.
Why are the Americans so insistent about access to our arts and cultural markets? Why do they treat our concerns about cultural identity with bemused disdain? It is because the Americans (and some Canadians too) have come to appreciate and understand the economic significance of the arts and cultural industries.
Think about the biggest mergers and acquisitions worldwide in the past five years or so. About than half of them, rated by dollar value, have been in the arts and cultural industries.
Economists and politicians have suddenly realized that here is an industry, with comparatively very low levels of support from government, that is one of the most labour intensive, cost-effective and efficient areas of the business sector, and one which deals primarily with a constantly renewable resource and with a huge potential for growth.
The Government of the United States has, after many years, been awakened by the irrefutable statistics to the economic importance of its arts and culture industries. They do not call them that but that is what they are.
They can no longer ignore the fact that for the past 30 years their largest economic export commodity was the airplane. However, their second largest was not cars or computers or information technology; It was arts & culture - and show business.
Culture Industries Have a $58.9 Billion Impact in Canada.
That’s what the latest StatsCan data shows, and that’s more than the national impact of accommodation and food services. It’s also eight times more than sports.
In 2017, there were 715,400 jobs directly related to culture industries, or 3.8% of all jobs in the country.
The GDP of culture industries ($59 billion) is larger than the value added of agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting ($39 billion), accommodation and food services ($46 billion), and utilities ($46 billion).
Statistics Canada also provides an estimate of the direct economic impact of sports industries in 2017 ($7.3 billion, or 0.3% of Canada’s GDP).
The direct economic impact of culture industries ($58.9 billion) is eight times larger than the sports estimate.
Similarly, the jobs estimate for culture industries (715,400) is almost six times larger than the estimate for the sports sector (125,500).
It makes sense to invest in an industry like that, especially when the cost of sustaining the traditional ones is so high.
We must maintain and nourish an environment in which the arts can and will flourish, and in which they are held in respect, both as enhancing our quality of life and as an important part of our economic structure.
“Governments At All Levels Are Waking Up To These Economic Facts Because The Blunt Fact Is That Arts And Culture Is One Of Our Largest Industrial Sectors.”
Tourism is a very close cousin of the arts and cultural industries - and an important one. If you think of it, the main reasons that tourists go somewhere are climate, culture, and shopping. It is the second two, and certainly not the first, that make London and New York tourist meccas.
Consider, the arts in that light. Not as secondary, superfluous and outside of Canada's economic mainstream, but rather as a major player in our economy and a serious participant in our future.
Not as a sinkhole for government and corporate funds, but rather as a real growth industry from which every dollar invested is returned to our economy doubled, tripled and quadrupled. Not as a playground where indulgent artistes pursue their personal fantasies, but rather as a labour intensive, efficient, lean industry with a proven and increasing market.
Because the arts change, they are essentially always the same. They are the means by which we communicate our highest and most noble ideas. They have survived every scourge known to man. In many cases they have been instrumental in effecting positive world changes. They will continue to survive because our need for self-expression, creativity and beauty will remain, however much the externals of our world may change.
The arts are significant and vital in every respect of our society. If we treat them with respect and with pride, then no matter what social transitions we face, the spirit, the soul and the economic vitality of our country will thrive.
Inspired by, with excerpts from, a presentation by retired Senator Tommy Banks.