York U study finds Canadian visual artists underpaid


TORONTO, March 31, 2009 -- A study released today by the Art Gallery of York University reports that Canadian visual artists are “dismally” underpaid.

The report, “Waging Culture: The Socio-Economic Status of Canadian Visual Artists,” is the first national survey of Canadian visual artists since Statistics Canada’s 1993 Cultural Labour Force survey.

The study analyses both the sources of revenue for visual artists, as well as their practice expenses, rather than relying solely on census data.

In 2007, the typical visual artist’s income, from all sources, was $20,000; significantly less than the average Canadian income of $26,850. Only 43.6% of visual artists made any money at all from their studio practice.

”In 2007, the typical artist’s studio practice actually lost $556,” says Michael Maranda, Assistant Curator for the Art Gallery of York University. “When you look at it this way, it’s quite dismal.”

Worse still, says Maranda, there’s a disconnect between artists’ earnings and their level of education.

”Canadian visual artists average more than six years of post-secondary education,” he says. “But we actually found that the more education they possess, the less they actually earn in terms of practice-based revenue. On the plus side, higher education for artists does equal significant increases in the amount of compensation from secondary employment.”

According to the study, there are between 22,500 and 27,800 visual artists in Canada. The average artist is 43 years of age, with 80 percent practicing professionally before age 35.

Compared to the national total labour force, visual artists are more likely to be female, anglophone, in a relationship, and born Canadian, and less likely to be members of a visible minority.

Report highlights:


·            The vast majority of an artist’s studio revenue is from sales (54%), with grants (34%) and artist fees (12%) making up the rest. Expenses that exceed an artist’s revenue are covered by other employment income.

·            In 2007, the average artist worked 26 hours per week on their studio practice, 14.5 hours on art-related employment, and 7.6 hours on non-art-related employment. In addition, they volunteered just over 3 hours a week to art-related activities.

·            Those artists who spent a majority of their employment time in the studio earned significantly less total income, a median of $15,000, versus $28,994 for artists who spent most of their time in art-related employment, and $21,793 for those who spent most of their time in non-art-related employment.

·            Compared to artists who received no grants in 2007, artists who earned large ($5,000+) grants in 2007 also had higher levels of self-generated practice-based income from both sales and artist fees, while artists who earned smaller grants (less than $5,000) had higher levels of artist fees, but a lower level of sales.


·            Visual artists are extremely well-educated; Over 84% have at least an undergraduate degree, and almost 45% have graduate degrees (compared to 23% and 7% of the total labour force, respectively).


·            More than 30% of artists have no supplementary health benefits, and an additional 22% have only self-financed benefits. Over one-third of artists have no retirement funds whatsoever, and another third only have self-financed retirement funds.

The final report is available in PDF form on the Waging Culture website, at: http://www.theAGYUisOutThere.org/wagingculture .

For more information, contact wagingculture@theAGYUisOutThere.org .


York University is the leading interdisciplinary research and teaching university in Canada. York offers a modern, academic experience at the undergraduate and graduate level in Toronto, Canada’s most international city. The third largest university in the country, York is host to a dynamic academic community of 50,000 students and 7,000 faculty and staff, as well as more than 200,000 alumni worldwide. York’s 11 faculties and 26 research centres conduct ambitious, groundbreaking research that is interdisciplinary, cutting across traditional academic boundaries. This distinctive and collaborative approach is preparing students for the future and bringing fresh insights and solutions to real-world challenges. York University is an autonomous, not-for-profit corporation.



Media contact:
Melissa Hughes

York University Media Relations

416 736 2100 x22097