Arts and culture

Employment in the arts

A local survey of nearly 100 Hamilton arts, entertainment, and recreation organizations found the number of jobs fell to 1,214 from 2,328 between January and December 2020, a decrease of 48%.1

Nationally, arts, entertainment and recreation has been one of the hardest-it economic sectors – second only to airlines and travel.  Between 2019 and 2020, job losses were 25%, compared to 5% across all industries.  Job losses in performing arts totalled 41%, and artists who kept their jobs worked 36% fewer hours than in the prior year.2

National recent research from Hill Strategies3 found that annual incomes for artists were not equitable across groups.  Indigenous artists earned 32% less than non-Indigenous, racialized artists earned 28% less than non-racialized, and women artists earned 18% less than men. The overall average income for artists was $24,300. 

Artist’s annual income by sub-population
Overall average income $24,300

 Annual income Annual incomeDifference
Indigenous artists$16,600Non-Indigenous artists$24,400-32%
Racialized artists$18,200Non-Racialized artists$25,400-28%

Source:  Statistics Canada, 2016 Census.  Calculations:  Hill Strategies, 20204

Statistics Canada defines artists as one of nine different occupations (2016 Hamilton total population in parentheses):5

“Cultural workers” includes artists, but also creative, production, technical and management occupations in broadcasting film and video, sound recording, performing arts, publishing, printing, creative marketing, libraries, archives, heritage, architecture and design.

Events and museum or gallery visits

The number of outdoor events on City of Hamilton properties plunged to 43 in 2020 from 447 in 2019.  Previously, these events had been steadily growing:  302 in 2016, 337 in 2017, and 445 in 2018.   Annual visits to city galleries and museums fell by 82% to 36,000 in 2020, from 205,000 in 2019.6

Film permits and revenue  

Film permits issued by the City of Hamilton dropped by 34%, to 524 in 2020 from 790 in 2019.  Revenues from filmmaking in Hamilton fell less steeply, dropping 10% to $53 million in 2020 from $59 million in 2019.7   Given that all activity was shut down for four months (March to July 2020), the film industry fared better than most other parts of the sector.

Library use

Hamilton Public Library has 22 branches and two bookmobiles that serve as cultural hubs providing free access to collections, spaces, services, technology, and programs across Hamilton. The pandemic has shifted the way the public accesses these services significantly. Physical borrowing of library materials dropped 56% from 5,355,146 physical items in 2019 to 2,344,024 in 2020 . During the same period, digital circulation increased by 35%, from 1,874,764 in 2019 to 2,532,708 in 2020. Digital circulation grew from 26% of total circulation in 2019 to 52% of all circulation in 2020. With pandemic-related restrictions on in-person visits, wi-fi and computer sessions also dropped by 69% from 2019 to 2020.

1 City of Hamilton (2021).  COVID Business Needs and Workforce Impact Survey.
2 Statistics Canada (2021).  Cited in The Globe and Mail, March 11, 2011.  When the music’s over:  COVID-19 decimated the arts in Canada, and the worst may be yet to come.
3 Hill Strategies (2020).  Demographic diversity of artists in Canada
4 Ibid. 
5 Workforce Planning Hamilton, 2018. Data by special request.  Cited in Hamilton Community Foundation, 2018.  Hamilton’s Vital Signs.
6 City of Hamilton (January 26, 2021).  Planning and Economic Development Department.  Annual Budget Presentation.
7 Ibid.