Vancouver Island is home to a lot of artists. That’s no surprise.
Several years ago, six arts councils from the Vancouver Island/Gulf Island region joined forces to form the Digital Innovation Group (DIG) to explore opportunities to collaborate in the arts community.
With funding from the Canada Council for the Arts, DIG conducted the first-ever arts impact study for the region.
“A key finding is that we have strength in numbers. This island ecosystem is home to at least 35,000 professional and casual artists and another 20,000 arts sector workers,” said Jenny Farkas, co-chair of Creative Coast, in a recent blog post.
Creative Coast is a collaboration of artists and arts organizations that hopes to build on the work started by DIG.
It turns out all those potters, painters, sculptors, and the organizations behind them generate a big chunk of change for the island economy. According to the study, cultural tourism and the arts were responsible for $900 million in direct economic output and $675 million in GDP in 2019.
The sector supports 22,000 full-time equivalent jobs and pays $525 million in labour income.
The study also highlights some opportunities and needs.
It found that the sector was too reliant on volunteers and needed to develop more sustainable funding sources. More new community arts spaces need to be built, and cities should celebrate local artistic and cultural heritage, and include arts and culture in their tourism marketing.
“The study’s findings give us incredible leverage. For starters, they are facilitating new conversations with other sectors such as Tourism Vancouver Island and the Nuu-chah-nulth Economic Development Commission,” Farkas said.