Thursday, October 13, 2011

What I learned from the New OAC Arts Engagement Study

Today, the Ontario Arts Council released the results of its latest arts engagement study. You can read the summary here and the full report here.

Here's what I found interesting in the study results:
  • Almost all Ontarians could cite at least one arts activity that they’d like to do more frequently in the future - and the number-one pick for arts activity they'd like to do more frequently was to "Paint, draw or make other original art." So to me it seems important that art institutions need get involved in helping adults and children actually engage in making art. This includes partnering with the school system to get kids making art at a young age.
  • Overall, the home is the predominant setting for engaging in music (89%), dance (51%) and visual arts (71%) activities. This is consistent with other research suggesting that the home is the foundational setting for arts activities of all sorts. So how can art museums and galleries reach into homes? Maybe by getting on board with online exhibitions as an endeavour that's just as seriously undertaken as producing beautiful catalogues that few people will purchase and fewer, read? Or, um, something?
  • Half of Ontarians visit art museums and galleries at some level, although half of all activity around museums is held within only 20% of the population. This is the steepest audience-distribution relationship among all arts activities in the study! To me, this also goes a long way to demonstrating how intimidating it might be for people not in that 20% to actually visit art museums and galleries -- could be easy to feel like an outsider.
  • As might be expected, ‘watch movies on computer, TV or DVD’ is by far the most prevalent of all visual arts, crafts and film activities, with 61% doing it ‘at least once a week,’ and another 28% ‘at least once a month.’ Somehow, this made me wonder why watching TV didn't count as a cultural activity in itself. There are a lot of crap movies out there, as well as some good TV. Just sayin'.
  • Reading in general exhibits the highest frequency and salience index scores overall. Salience for ‘accessing books through a local library’ is higher than frequency, suggesting that although not typically thought of as a creative act, going to the library to seek out reading material is a highly valued activity. The study suggests that, as a result, libraries are "a natural partner for arts organizations to increase outreach and expand programming." To this, I say, word. It's time for the NGC, the AGO, the ROM, the Power Plant and other publicly funded galleries to start considering how they can reach out through library branches. I've seen some workshops in the past, but I feel like more work is needed.
  • 95% of Ontarians said they would like to be doing more arts activities than they are doing now. Well, that's kind of heartwarming. And I also like that the study has included "going out dancing" as an arts activity. I'd like to do more of that too.

(Generic I'm-learning-from-stats image via Hope for the Sold)


pixo said...

Here are my thoughts on promoting art making:

The most frequently and widely distributed materials related to art making are flyers from art supplies stores. If art institutions have genuine interest in promoting art making by general public, they should consider partnering with art supplies stores which share the same interest but obviously for a different purpose.

My sister taught grade 2. One of her recent project with her class is to make an Impressionist painting after Monet. Note, although the school board set guideline, the school system provides little on the "what" and the "how". She did her own research and come across this project. BTW, she is buying a pumpkin today, and will be carving it with her class next week. Will this be considered art making?

Online competition is a great way to promote interest in art making. Saatchi Online ( has a "Drawing Showdown" happening right now. It attracted participants from all levels. Saatchi Gallery has done an exceptional job with its online initiatives.

"Illustration Friday" (, although not a competition, is another online model for promoting art making.

Last but not least, something that I find truly inspiring, and can only have happened because of the wide reach of the Internet. A US artist / art teacher has a blog called "A splotch monster a day". His personal art making effort has inspired others, including a boy from Russia - May be because I have been reading about Chagall and the Russian Avante-Garde, I am seeing a bit of Chagall in the work.

Leah Sandals said...

Hi Pixo,

Wow, thanks for that roundup! I hadn't thought of the art supply stores before. That's especially a place where early education teachers often go as well, eh?

I also find your anecdote about the teacher being told to do a project, but being provided with few guidelines from the school board, intriguing. It must be frustrating for teachers to be told they have to integrate art education into their classes, but feel like they don't have the knowledge or instructional resources provided to to so. (I've heard that before from a high school teacher -- that she really wants to teach about art, but finds few resources that are helpful in assisting her in that.)

As for the pumpkin carving, well - comes down to the classic philosophical debates in art, I guess. Can copying a standard cultural form be art? Is that perhaps more believable as a thesis when someone with an MFA does it as opposed to an elementary school student? Or when it happens in a white-cube gallery as opposed to a linoleum-floor classroom? This reminds me of what I read some time ago in a piano teaching book. The author was contending that children aren't being trained to make beauty when they take piano lessons - they are making beauty, period. Whether that's at a high/professional level or not is where the distinction lies, I think.

More seriously, carving a pumpkin could be a kind of sculpture, I think. Especially if you cast it in bronze afterwards! That would seal the deal! : )