Ottawans aren't participating as much in city-run arts programs, report finds

People are spending less and less time participating in performing arts events in Ottawa than they did seven years ago, according to a report released Thursday on the city's arts and culture landscape.

Community Foundation of Ottawa report shines light on art investement and attendance in Ottawa

Confidential Theatre Project Ottawa's performance of Stephen Sondheim's 'Company!' was at Arts Court Theatre in 2015. A new report says people are spending less time participating in city-run performing arts events in Ottawa. ( Jennifer Scrivens)

People are spending less and less time participating in city-run performing arts events in Ottawa than they did seven years ago, according to a report released Thursday on the city's arts and culture landscape.

The amount of time people are spending participating in performing arts events offered by the City of Ottawa has been on a steady decline, dropping 30 per cent between 2009 and 2015, according to a report from Community Foundations Ottawa, a non-profit organization publishing data on a number of themes in Ottawa.

The data show the number of participation hours dropped from roughly 120,000 hours to 87,000 hours in the six-year period.

Participation at visual arts events offered by the city also experienced a decrease, falling 25 per cent between 2007 and 2015, though it did rebound slightly in 2014 and 2015.

The number crunching is part of the group's Ottawa Insight program, an online knowledge initiative aimed at tracking quality-of-life indicators. In addition to arts and culture, the group has already looked at six other themes, including environment, health, education and employment.

"What we're trying to do is really lay the tracks, get the data that we could lay our hands on, and present the indicators that we felt were most relevant," said Rebecca Aird, the foundation's director of community engagement.

Mark Thompson's 'Cube, Lattice, Sphere, Wave' public art project. Visual arts participation was also in decline, though there was a rebound in 2014 and 2015. (CBC)

The arts and culture report also found individuals and organizations in Ottawa receive less money from federal grants issued by the department of Canadian Heritage and the Canada Council for the Arts.

Ottawa pulled in $12.65 per capita in 2015, compared to $61.31 in Montreal, $43.21 in Vancouver, and $28.08 in Toronto. Ottawa did pull in more than Edmonton ($11.26) and Calgary ($9.21).

According to Aird, it's not necessarily a situation where Ottawa isn't getting its fair share. 

"We don't know actually why that's the case, because we don't have information on how many applications are being received from each those cities, so we don't know whether it's a function of fewer applications, or a higher level of success for applications in those other cities," said Aird. 

The grant amount does not include funding for what the report calls "nationally focused initiatives," such as Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill.

Only 6% of recreational programs are arts-related

The report also sheds light on where arts and culture programs fit into the municipal government's larger package of recreational programs offered at community centres, arenas, schools and parks.

Of the 50,000 recreational programs offered by the City of Ottawa, only 3,000, or six per cent, of the programs are focused on performing or visual arts. The vast majority, 80 per cent, are for sports and activities such as aquatics and fitness.

That revelation didn't surprise Diana Carter, executive director of the Ottawa museum Network, who attended the Thursday presentation.

"It seems often that we are swimming in a much bigger pool which includes arts and culture," said Carter.

Arts and culture part of rural economy

The results also show almost one quarter of jobs related to arts, culture and recreation in Ottawa are located in rural areas of the city. Crunching the numbers further, that means art and recreation related jobs account for 10 per cent of all rural jobs.

It's the kind of statistic Carter is grateful for receiving in the report.

"There's a learning curve," said Carter. "People always see construction as a big economic driver, but in actual fact, arts and culture is a very significant economic driver.

"It's just never been seen in that light. So I think this information will go a long way to starting to inform that understanding better."

The Community Foundation Ottawa's next and final theme, community and belonging, will be released in early 2017.