Savvy home buyers and astute business people, who are searching for a new neighbourhood in which to live or work, increasingly investigate artistic activity to determine the strength and vibrancy of a community.

The Canada Council for the Arts, in acknowledgment of the importance of this community-based creativity, has transformed a temporary initiative to foster artistic community collaboration into a permanent, fully-funded program. As of April 1, 2007, the Canada Council pilot project, designed to bring professional artists and the broader community together across the wide spectrum of artistic disciplines, will be renamed the Artist and Community Collaboration Program (ACCP) and will become permanently integrated into the Canada Council's regular funding programs.

ACCP offers opportunities for all regions of the country:

  • to find expression through creative collaborations with leading professional artists, and
  • to gain financial support for projects that connect professional artists and communities.

"Between 1991 and 2001, the number of artists in Canada has grown significantly--by 29%," said Donna Balkan, Senior Communications Manager for the Canada Council. "In 1957, there were 4 or 5 professional theatre companies. Now, there are several hundred. Canadian artists are winning international awards. The level of artistic education in Canadian universities has risen significantly. Canada has grown as a nation."

Interest in creativity promises to grow as many Baby Boomers and their parents join a popular trend toward second careers and future lifestyles with an artistic bent. This may, in part, explain continued growth in Canada's artistic communities. Not only are there more professional artists–painters, actors, writers etc.–they are involving larger groups of "non artists" in their artistic endeavours through courses, cooperatives, festivals and other community events.

According to the 73-page report [ report ] commissioned by the Canada Council to make recommendations about artistic trends and funding patterns, "Communities are actively engaging with artists and with each other, creating public art and performance, infusing their neighbourhoods and their lives with meaning and beauty and integrating art into everyday life."

Since 2002, the Council funded over 400 collaborative projects, including:

  • A film and new media training program for youth in Toronto's Regent Park, which is currently the site of massive urban redevelopment.
  • Seven months of multi-disciplinary artistic and organizational workshops which led to a harvest fair, parade and festival coinciding with Vancouver's Asian Mid-Autumn Festival and involving more than 2,000 participants.

"Funding involves C$1.3 million," said Balkan, explaining that art establishes discussion and brings social cohesion. "The arts are important economically. We live in a time when attracting intelligent, well-educated workers is important. A lot of studies have shown that workers are attracted to areas with high quality of life."

Artists have long been seen as the harbingers of gentrification -- see PJ's earlier column "Square Feet Helps Canadian Artists Buy and Lease ( House Exterior Landscaping Lawn Grass Bushes Trees Garden Flowers Soil Fertilizer Weeds )". They move into under-utilized, affordable commercial or industrial space and transform the area into vibrant residential and commercial neighbourhoods, raising real estate values in the process.

Kelly Hill, President of Hamilton Ontario-based Hill Strategies Research Inc., has combined his formal training in economics and political science with an interest in the arts to provide statistical insights into Canada's "creative communities." He admits that his personal search for a neighbourhood to settle in was swayed by the arts: "I did not have hard data to go on, but I looked at a number of areas and this one had a lot of artists and a lot of creative [evidence]."

Hill's research on creative neighbourhoods and cities may be useful in making up your mind about a new place to live or work:

  • Artists in Large Canadian Cities. This report analyses artistic activity in 92 Canadian municipalities with populations over 50,000 during 2001(the last completed census). Results include observations that:
    1. Vancouver had the highest percentage of the labour force in the arts
    2. Toronto's artists had the highest average earnings
    3. Barrie, Ontario, had the largest percentage increase in the number of artists between 1991 and 2001
  • Artists in Small and Rural Municipalities. Research revealed significant concentrations of artists in small and rural communities and demonstrated the significance of their social and economic contributions.
  • Artists by Neighbourhood in Canada. Using mapping technology, this analysis examined artists as a percentage of the 2001 labour force, according to postal code. The most creative neighbourhood proved to be H2W in Montreal with an artistic concentration 10 times the national average. The most creative rural area was Nunavut's X0A Baffin Island region.

Will "statistical insights" from the new 2006 Census reveal changes in these distribution patterns and further increases in Canada's creative communities? Stay tuned as Statistics Canada releases the 2006 Census research over the months to come.

Source: Canada Council, Hill Strategies Research Inc., Statistics Canada

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