Arts and Culture

The arts and culture sector is often considered a very minor sector of the economy. In actual fact, approximately 539,000 people in Canada work in the cultural sector, contributing $39 billion to the Canadian economy. About one quarter of these cultural workers are artists.

Despite the cultural sector being a relatively large proportion of the Canadian economy, it is a highly competitive sector whose workers often face hardship and sacrifice. A recent report found that the three most striking characteristics of the cultural sector labour force are a high level of education, a high rate of self-employment, and relatively low earnings, especially for self-employed artists.

This means that making a living in arts and culture will require hard work and determination.

What is a cultural job?

According to the Conference Board of Canada, arts and culture jobs can be categorized into four main areas:

  • Creative and artistic production: This is the largest group, encompassing more than half of all cultural occupations. It includes many of the occupations traditionally associated with culture, such as artists, dancers, writers, and musicians.
  • Technical and operational: This group includes occupations that are technical or operational in nature, such as technicians working in television, film, or broadcasting; library clerks; translators; drafting technicians; etc.
  • Heritage collection and preservation: This is the smallest group, and consists of only three occupations: librarians, conservators, and archivists.
  • Cultural management: This group also consists of only three occupations: library, archive, and gallery managers; managers in publishing, motion pictures, broadcasting, and live performing arts; and supervisors of library, correspondence, and related clerks.

Within these four areas people could work anywhere within the “Creative Chain” – creation (e.g. writer), production (e.g. editor), or dissemination (e.g. book retailer).

Finding Your Fit

Where do you fit in these four categories and where along the Creative Chain would you like to work? Are you determined to make your living through your art or would you prefer to promote the arts through work in a museum or teaching young artists?

Like any sector, finding your fit will depend upon your interests and passions, your skills, the realities of the labour market, and your ability to network and create a niche for yourself within the sector. This work will require patience, determination, and planning to do the self-assessment, research, and networking necessary for success. Your employment counsellor can help in this process to keep you motivated and on-track.

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