Funding, Patronage, and Volunteerism

Before the Massey ReportFunding for the arts in Canada is a complex grid of private philanthropy, corporate contribution, and government subsidy.

Before the Massey Report

Funding for the arts in Canada is a complex grid of private philanthropy, corporate contribution, and government subsidy. Each of these three sectors subdivides into an array of funding sources most of which have little to do with the traditional and popular notion of patronage as personal largesse.

The first patron, going back more than 300 years, was the Roman Catholic church, which, as did most Protestant churches later, included music in its services and eventually endowed the parishes with musicians, many of whom assumed musical leadership in the community as a whole, serving as organists, conductors, teachers, and performers. Another early example of patronage was the sponsorship of military bands, first by the British and later by the Canadian government's Dept of National Defence (until 1923 Department of Militia and Defence). Established in some numbers across the country by the early 19th century, bands gave concerts and provided orchestras with brass and wind players and the community with teachers. (See Bands; Brass.)

Direct government support of music, so common to nearly all European countries, was almost unknown in Canada until the middle of the 20th century. Apart from the support given to such activities by the government of Quebec, there were no government subventions to orchestras, choral societies, opera companies, or music schools, nor had Canada a resource corresponding to the many private benefactors of the USA who gave lavishly to music. There were certain notable exceptions, eg, in Vancouver the Buckerfield family, the B.T. Rogers, the Koerners, W.H. Malkin, David Spencer; in Edmonton H. A. Dyde; in Regina Franklin N. Darke, Ambrose C. Froom; in Winnipeg the Richardsons; in Toronto the Masseys, the Eatons, Col A.E. Gooderham, F.R. MacKelcan, Floyd S. Chalmers; in Montreal Lord Strathcona, Frank Meighen, Charles S. Campbell (see Campbell Free Band Concerts), Jean Lallemand, and J.W. McConnell. Similarly, patronage from the corporate sector was limited, and most often given to musical activities related to the company in question, eg, the excellent band of the Anglo-Canadian Leather Company of Huntsville, Ont, in the first quarter of the 20th century, the Dofasco Male Chorus of Hamilton, the Canada Packers Operatic Society, and the Eaton Operatic Society in Toronto. Notable early corporate support for non-related musical organizations included the sponsorship of the TSO pop concerts by the Robert Simpson Co ca 1945-51 and by Canada Packers Ltd after 1951.

The first significant example of government support of music in Canada came through the publicly-owned CNR, which, anticipating by several decades its role as a communications company, began sponsoring music broadcasts in the 1920s. (See Broadcasting.) From these early efforts the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) emerged in 1936. This national broadcasting service continues to be an essential part of the funding picture in Canada, especially for music. In the early years direct employment was provided through a daily schedule of live studio broadcasts. Many young singers and instrumentalists received - and still receive - their first national recognition through CBC programs, while the CBC-sponsored orchestras in major centres, particularly in Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, and Vancouver, provided necessary income for professional musicians. Composers, arrangers, and commentators likewise received employment and recognition. Commissions, international broadcasts, and recordings by Canadian artists continue to be part of the CBC's contribution to Canadian music, together with the direct financial contribution to orchestras, chamber series, and festivals for broadcasts of their live performances.

Arts Councils and Governments

The Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences (Massey Commission) was created in 1949 and tabled in 1951 a report which ushered in the era of direct government support for the arts. By bringing together the desires and needs across the country for the arts, this pivotal document provided the rationale for the creation in 1957 of the Canada Council. Modelled on the Arts Council of Great Britain, the Canada Council is an arm's length agency of the federal government with a mandate 'to foster and promote the study and enjoyment of and the production of works in the arts'. Among the arts, music has been a leading recipient of assistance since the first year; for examples of grants to music organizations, see the Canada Council entry.

The Dept of National Defence has continued to contribute to its bands and to the communities in which they are stationed. Indeed, 'for years [it] was alone among federal departments in developing a conscious, consistent and imaginative policy and providing the funds to make it work' (Ostry, The Cultural Connection, p 41). Another national body, the NFB, consistently has used Canadian music and musicians to enhance its films.

The Canada Council assumed the leadership in what soon became a complicated network of arts councils, government ministries of culture (some provinces have both), and municipal and regional governments, all subsidizing the arts. (See: Alberta Culture; British Columbia Cultural Services Branch; Manitoba Arts Council; Ministère des Affaires culturelles du Québec; New Brunswick Cultural Development Branch; Newfoundland Division of Cultural Affairs; Northwest Territories Dept of Culture and Communication; Nova Scotia Department of Tourism and Culture; Ontario Arts Council; Prince Edward Island Council of the Arts; Saskatchewan Arts Board; and Yukon Arts Council.) In addition, other ministries concerned with education, tourism, economic development, training, and job creation have steered dollars to the arts in order to achieve one policy objective or another.

Generating the funds are tax revenues and lotteries, or sometimes both in a single jurisdiction; an arts group may be funded simultaneously by several different levels and departments of government and from both lottery and tax-based dollars. A frequent criticism of this system is that it encourages groups to invent a multitude of time-consuming and often risky projects in order to obtain a grant, while what is really needed is adequate ongoing operational funding to maintain a viable arts infrastructure. Others, however, argue for a diversity of funding sources, in order that the organizations avoid dependency on any single department or granting program.

In 1987-8 the Council for Business and the Arts in Canada (CBAC, established 1974) reported that for 161 performing arts organizations in Canada with budgets of over $100,000, governments at all levels contributed over $80 million or 32 per cent of total revenues. It is worth noting that while this represented a 9.5 per cent increase in total government share of revenues, the Canada Council, the flagship of government arts subsidy in the country, saw its share decline by 2 per cent. These figures represent only a narrow band within the total spectrum of government's involvement with the cultural sector. Statistics Canada reported that in 1987 government at all levels expended $568 million on the arts, including museums and arts education. When all those activities generally described as cultural industries (broadcasting, recording, film production, and publishing) and capital for facilities are added, the figure climbs to close to $800 million.

Traditionally the federal government has led the way in arts support, with the provinces second and the municipal level a distant third. However while the relative proportion of municipalities' support in the overall scheme has not changed, the 1980s saw a growing interest in the development of cultural policies at the civic level. Encouraged by local arts councils and a fledgling national coalition called Arts in the Cities, city councils have shown a new awareness of the social and economic value represented by a thriving arts scene. As an example, the city of Windsor was a leading and substantial financial supporter of the Windsor Symphony Orchestra through a difficult period in the late 1980s.

Private Support and Volunteerism

While government support at all levels is crucial, arts organizations must still depend for their survival on a consortium of revenue sources. The CBAC survey of 1987-8 showed that governments contributed approximately 32 per cent of revenues, box office and other earned income accounted for 54 per cent on average, while the balance came from the private sector, including individuals, foundations, and corporations.

Individual giving is very much tied to the notion of volunteerism, and as Samuel Martin noted in his book Essential Grace (Toronto 1985), people who donate time or money do so as a result of a family history of philanthropy and service, or in the knowledge that philanthropy will enhance their reputation in the community. Bequests are also an important component of private support for the arts. The largest gifts have naturally tended to come from the older segment of society, but there has been a growing concern that the 'baby boom' generation, with fewer spare hours to serve as volunteers in arts organizations, may not show the same pattern of generosity as it grows older. Concern over an apparent decrease in commitment led the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy to launch in 1988 a five-year campaign called 'Imagine,' with the aim of encouraging individuals and corporations to increase their involvement in time and dollars in the non-profit sector.

It is worth noting here that Canada's music organizations still attract very large numbers of volunteers each year. For example, 52 Canadian orchestras reported in 1988 a total of over 6000 volunteers contributing to their success. A conservative estimate of 3 hours each per week for 30 weeks results in 540,000 person hours or over 60 person years of freely given labour to assist Canadian orchestras. Add to this the formidable number of Canadians giving their unpaid time and expertise to choirs, opera companies, music festivals, music schools, and concert series, and it becomes evident that volunteerism is a continuing major source of patronage for music in the country.

While individuals provide an essential core of support, the fastest growing sector by the late 1980s was corporate sponsorship, which provided over one third of all private giving according to the CBAC survey. In the course of the 1980s corporate patronage evolved into corporate partnership, where producer and sponsor each receive benefits for dollars spent. The sponsor looks for recognition, community visibility, and goodwill, as well as contact with a certain market and an opportunity to share an event with prospective customers. The arts producer receives financial benefit, together with community recognition.

Foundations complete the private funding picture, and while they contribute a small percentage of the funds (eg, only 5 per cent of private revenues for orchestras comes from foundations) the impact can be significant. A case in point is the Laidlaw Foundation which in the 1980s made a special commitment to original Canadian creation, contributing to the development of new works by Ann Mortifee, R. Murray Schafer, J. Scott Irvine, Harry Somers, and Bruce Mather and to organizations such as the Canadian Music Centre, and the Glass Orchestra, to name only a few. This vote of confidence for the new and risky can make the difference between success and failure for these groups who find it difficult to raise private support. (See also Foundations)

Status of the Artist

The most crucial issue, however, in the musical community is how much real support there is for the artist, and here the picture shows little improvement from the earliest days of patronage; the majority of artists still report incomes below the poverty level. Funding of the Arts in Canada to the Year 2000, the report of the Task Force on Funding of the Arts (the Bovey Report) in 1986 found that artists have 'for many years been subsidizing the arts by working for minimum wages, at or near the poverty level, without recourse to social benefits such as unemployment insurance'. Also in 1986, another federal task force report, The Status of the Artist (the Siren-Gélinas Report), made a number of recommendations which have found widespread support among arts groups across the country. Looking at what it termed the 'unique nature of the artistic profession' it urged the government to 'provide sufficient human and financial resources to effectively represent the Canadian artistic community at all levels of government in the development, implementation and monitoring of legislative or policy changes that affect' that profession.

The Siren-Gélinas Report led to the establishment of the Canadian Advisory Committee on the Status of the Artist which in turn developed 'A Proposed Act on the Professional Status of the Artist - the Canadian Artists' Code'; released in 1988, it remains the subject of discussion by arts groups across the country. The code's objective is to have the federal government and ultimately all the provinces, (Quebec in 1991 was the only one with relevant legislation) adopt legislation to significantly change the artists' standing with respect to collective bargaining rights, unemployment insurance, income tax, and copyright. While in the music field most artists have had bargaining rights through association with the AF of M, and are protected through a variety of other associations, the package presented by the Canadian Artists' Code will improve the total picture and provide, as the CCA expresses it, 'improved access to the work of Canadian artists' and 'dignity and respect for [all] artists'.

The Canadian Artists' Code, in effect, takes the funding of the artist out of the patronage arena, with its connotation of dependency, and into the regular economic production sector. Funding through grants and private donations will continue to be sought on behalf of artistic creation for community benefit, just as any other sector is funded for the 'general good'. But in the complexity of this funding mix, the artists have introduced a different agenda, one which will put the creator at the centre of the picture, ensured of a new, independent status.

See also Governments and music; Music industry.


Further Reading

  • Walter, Arnold, 'Problems of patronage in a democratic society,' CMJ, vol 1, Spring 1957

    Bladen, Vincent. The Financing of the Performing Arts in Canada (Toronto 1971)

    Pasquill, Frank T. Subsidy Patterns for the Performing Arts in Canada (Ottawa 1973)

    'How goes the romance between business and the arts?' Business Q, vol 39, Autumn 1974

    Alderman, Tom. 'Gimme, gimme never gets,' The Canadian, 8 Feb 1975

    Ostry, Bernard. The Cultural Connection (Toronto 1978)

    Council for Business and the Arts. CBAC News, 6 issues a year, Toronto 1977-

    'The corporate money tree,' Music, Sep-Oct 1980

    Batten, Jack. 'An aid to excellence: when culture and corporation meet,' Imperial Oil Review, vol 64, no. 4, 1980

    MacSkimming, Roy. For Arts' Sake: A History of the Ontario Arts Council 1963-1983 (Toronto 1983)

    Woodcock, George. Strange Bedfellows: The State and the Arts in Canada (Vancouver 1985)

    The Status of the Artist (Ottawa 1986)

    Funding of the Arts in Canada to the Year 2000 (Ottawa 1986)

    Lazarevich, Gordana. 'Aspects of early arts patronage in Canada: from Rockefeller to Massey,' Taking a Stand: Essays in Honour of John Beckwith, ed Timothy J. McGee (Toronto 1995)