Primarily self-employed, visual, media, and craft-based artists derive income through various revenue streams. It is extremely rare for a single source of revenue to provide enough income to live on. It is a common practice for artists to occupy several roles, including but not limited to: creation, sales, instruction, mentorship, consultancy, speaking, curation, writing, and working for art institutions and organizations. This leads to a mixture of royalties and fees paid, sales, and wages from additional part-time jobs, such as teaching in universities or working for galleries. Many artists and cultural workers supplement their arts incomes with labour in other sectors, which often involves low-paid and/or precarious gig-work.
– According to 2016 Census data, there are 726,600 cultural workers, representing 4% of the overall labour force. This includes over 158,000 artists living and working in Canada, representing more workers than in automotive manufacturing and utilities;
– The median income of Canadian visual artists is $20,000, which is 54% lower than the median income of all workers. 66% of Canadian visual artists are self-employed, compared to only 12% of all Canadian workers;
– Of the 21,100 visual artists in Canada,16% of visual artists are Indigenous, Black, or racialized. Indigenous, Black, and racialized artists are underrepresented within Canadian cultural institutions both as presenting artists, and within executive management positions and boards. Meanwhile COVID-19 transmission has disproportionately impacted Black, racialized, and low-income communities;
– The 2016 Census revealed that Indigenous, Black, and other racialized artists earn significantly less income than their non-Indigenous/non-racialized counterparts. Indigenous, and Black and racialized artists earn a median income of 68 cents and 72 cents, respectively, for every $1 for non-Indigenous/Black/racialized artists.
Overview of recommendations
We support the recommendations made by the Canadian Arts Coalition, and the recommendations made by Galeries Ontario/Ontario Galleries. Additionally, we recommend that the Federal Government:
1. Modernize the Employment Insurance program;
2. Advance the Canada Council for the Arts’ 2021-26 Strategic Plan by investing $2M for the creation of a high-access Micro-Grant program for artists;
3. Create a new program at Canadian Heritage to encourage and support entrepreneurship among visual artists;
4. Amend the Copyright Act to include an Artist’s Resale Right as an economic marketplace solution for individual artists.