New survey to examine impacts of the arts

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The Salt Spring Arts Council is hoping to get every person on the island on board for a survey demonstrating how the arts impact their lives.

The local organization is one of six arts councils in the region that have come together to form the Digital Innovation Group (DIG), which seeks to empower artists and arts organizations through accessible digital technologies and shared resources. One of their first big projects is an assessment of how the arts impact people living on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, through a survey that launched this week. The assessment is being conducted by international consulting firm Nordicity, and is funded by the Canada Council for the Arts.

Salt Spring Arts Council (SSAC) executive director Yael Wand said the organization knows its members very well and can make sure they know about the survey, but they also want to make sure the voices of other artists are heard, as well as those of audiences.

“We’re looking for artists and non-artists to do the survey, as wide a range as possible,” Wand said. “My goal is to have everyone on Salt Spring participate.”

DIG formed in 2019 after the Arts Council of Ladysmith and District hosted an online seminar exploring the proposition that “Vancouver Island is a powerhouse of the arts.” Formation of the group that included SSAC, Valley Arts, Hornby Island Arts Council, The Old School House Centre and the Cowichan Valley Arts Council was followed with a Canada Council funding application and its success. 

The survey will try to determine the arts’ impact in the region in three areas of interest: the economy, local tourism and the general well-being of individuals and the community. 

In addition to the regional data, Wand said local organizations should be able to access the results specific to their communities. 

“We don’t have data to talk about the importance of the arts in the Gulf Islands. As arts organizations we know inherently that they’re important, but we don’t have the data to show that,” Wand said.

The information collected will be instrumental for post-COVID recovery efforts and strategic planning. The hope for the DIG survey is that it will uncover  information to allow arts councils to encourage audiences and make sure artists have a sustainable livelihood. 

Wand said SSAC may learn that artists are having to leave the island because they can’t afford to live there or can’t find housing and/or studio space, or perhaps that the artistic community is aging out. 

“Salt Spring is known for having a creative community, and we need to know these things so we can ensure we remain a creative community,” Wand said. “We may get back information that verifies what we think — and we may get back something completely unexpected.” 

Being part of a larger group with similar goals and challenges that can share resources is a good start to strengthening the island situation, Wand said.

“The regional connectivity, that really increased over the past year. And I think our community is going to really benefit from that. We’re kind of breaking down the silos,” she said. 

Everyone is encouraged to participate in the arts impact assessment online at digarts.ca/survey. The survey will be open for approximately four weeks from May 17. Participants will have the chance at the end to join a contest to win a cash prize, plus more chances to win by sharing the survey on Facebook and Instagram.

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