Thursday, November 15, 2012

TAPA Stats Report reinforces need for a rethink of cultural policy objectives

In our last issue of The Arts Advocate Report, we noted the shifting policy landscape for arts and culture in Canada.

This week, the release of the Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts (TAPA) Stats Report reinforced why this is happening.  The way that Canadians engage in cultural activity, like theatre, opera and dance, is changing.  The TAPA Stats, presented by The Strategic Counsel, show a drop in audience attendance between 2004/05 and 2009/10, a trend that cultural organizations have been observing for a while.  What is not so evident are the implications.

The shifting audience patterns mean that cultural organizations, together with the governments that support them, need to evaluate the policies and programs in place to support the arts in Canada.  As the Canada Council for the Arts notes in its recently published discussion paper, there “is a shift from a focus on the art and the artist to the public as the central driver of cultural and arts policy and actions.”

In a related vein, the Ontario Arts Council specifically talks about “build(ing) actively engaged audiences who reflect the changing generational and cultural demographics of Ontario” in their current strategic plan.

What does all this mean?  Clearly, there are no easy answers.  It’s time for thoughtful analysis and reflection that goes beyond talking about the age-old ‘challenge’ of inadequate funds (not surprisingly among the top issues cited in the TAPA Stats Report).