Study of Canadian Arts Worker Salaries Finds Stagnant Growth and Shrinking Benefits - Canadanewsmedia
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Study of Canadian Arts Worker Salaries Finds Stagnant Growth and Shrinking Benefits

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It’s tough out there for arts workers. (image by the author for Hyperallergic)

As most professionals in the arts sector know, love of the game can be one of the only benefits. As reported by the Canadian Art Foundation, a recent study performed by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Department of Canadian Heritage, dubbed the “2017 National Compensation Study – For Managerial and Administrative Positions in Not-for-Profit Arts Organizations” — which followed up on data last collected for a 2008 survey — revealed very little in the way of salary growth within Canada’s professional arts sector, and an attendant shrinking of benefits, especially retirement savings plans.

The study polls 426 organizations in the not-for-profit cultural sector in Canada, measured across 21 benchmarks, including wage increases, base salaries for top-tier executives, benefits, human resource priorities, and others. Results not only showed repressed growth in arts sector wages relative to the 2008 study, but found the arts lagging behind other sectors in terms of the compensation, long-term benefits, and subsequent retention of employees.

(all images derived from 2017 National Compensation Study – For Managerial and Administrative Positions in Not-for-Profit Arts Organizations unless indicated otherwise)

For example, the average employee turnover rate for arts sector workers in 2017 was calculated to be 13.3% — and though this represented a decrease from a staggering 20.3% in 2008, it is still nearly twice as high as the all-industry average of 7.1%. Smaller non-profit arts organizations (considered to be those with an annual operating budget under $1 million Canadian dollars) found that employees were routinely expected to take on a wider variety of functions to meet their organizational goals, often combining the responsibilities of multiple roles into a single position. Unable to offer competitive salaries or benefits — three-to-five times lower than those offered by organizations with annual operating budgets over $5 million — these small and mid-sized organizations often compensate with alternative methods to attract and retain staff.

“For example, 73% of organizations with operating budgets under $1,000,000 offer flexible work arrangements,” said the study. “This issue remains significant in an industry where the vast majority of organizations have operating budgets under $1,000,000.” This study was first performed in 2003, due to a growing sense of urgency in the not-for-profit arts sector, as a generation of arts managers and leaders were leaving the workforce and “the question of succession loomed large.”

A table from the 2017 National Compensation Study – For Managerial and Administrative Positions in Not-for-Profit Arts Organizations

One implication not explicitly examined by the study is the interrelationship between a sector that demonstrates very little potential for salary and wage growth, while demanding increasingly expensive post-graduate credentials from its candidates — even in Canada, where the cost of higher education is much lower compared to the United States. Top-tier arts sector workers are often tacitly expected to hold MAs and MFAs — and now, perhaps even PhDs — creating an opening for crippling student loan debt in a field with less potential to put employees in a position to pay off those loans and justify the expense of their qualifying education.

A table from the 2017 National Compensation Study – For Managerial and Administrative Positions in Not-for-Profit Arts Organizations

Certain study findings followed logical disparities between small and large organizations, for examples that larger orgs were two to three times more likely to offer a comprehensive benefits package than smaller ones (which were more likely to offer limited benefits or none at all). These findings remained consistent with the study results from 2003 and 2008, but are wildly out of step with the general scope of Canada’s other sectors — according to Mercer’s 2017 Worldwide Benefit and Employment Guidelines, 85–95% of Canadian companies provide health-related benefits.

A table from the 2017 National Compensation Study – For Managerial and Administrative Positions in Not-for-Profit Arts Organizations

This study provides yet more evidence in the ongoing effort to collect data on disparities in and among arts sector workers, creating an official record that reveals an international industry rife with issues of unfair compensation and representation. One must question if there are prevalent underlying concepts about the nature of art, its role in society, and its advancement and preservation, that enable the continued disregard of the need for job security and financial stability among its workforce. As organizations including Creative Capital and Creative Many work tirelessly to prove, arts sector work is significant to the economic health of advanced nations. One has to wonder how many studies must be conducted before sweeping change will come to an industry that continues to hold little material allure beyond the opportunity to “do what you love” for a living.

The entire “2017 National Compensation Study – For Managerial and Administrative Positions in Not-for-Profit Arts Organizations” is available from the Cultural Human Resources Council.

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New sights and sounds at Dalhousie Arts Centre

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The sound of music in the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium is now better than ever thanks in part to the federal government. The auditorium, part of the Dalhousie Arts Centre, has new state-of-the art sound and lighting systems, and on Thursday, May 17, the local Member of Parliament took a first-hand look as part of a tour of local infrastructure investments. 

“I grew up around the corner and the Cohn stage and purple seats were like a second living room,” said Andy Fillmore, Member of Parliament for Halifax — and a former karaoke champ — after trying out the new system by belting out a version of Glen Campbell’s pop-country classic “Rhinestone Cowboy.” 

“Since childhood I’ve watched the symphony, Canadian Brass and other shows, but being up here with these fabulous new systems really has the adrenaline pumping,” said Fillmore.

Last November, Fillmore, also parliamentary secretary to the minister of democratic institutions, announced $391,211 in funding on behalf of the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage. Dalhousie matched the funding through a $1.50 fee charged on tickets to performances.

Much needed modernization

The funding was used to replace the sound system and speaker system and to install energy efficient LED lighting with many more features than the previous setup. The funding also paid for an upgraded electronic exterior marquee.

“In the past, our sound system was underpowered for what many shows today need," says Colin Richardson, the Art Centre’s technical coordinator. "So along with the cost of the venue, travelling performers would have to arrive earlier, rent and install custom lights and sound systems, and then tear it all down when they were finished.

"The new systems makes it easier and more cost-efficient for performers and may attract acts that wouldn’t consider us before.”

The systems will also benefit Dalhousie events, including convocation, regular partners like Symphony Nova Scotia, and those from the community who use the facility for graduations, dance shows and recitals. 

“Community groups make up more than half the bookings here at the Cohn, and the new facilities will give them the opportunity to perform using state-of-the-art equipment,” says Heather Sutherland, Dal’s assistant vice-president, ancillary services. “Many successful Canadian artists have had their start on this stage, and we are so happy to provide a world-class setting.”   

A big improvement

Shirley Third-Genus is the executive director of the Arts Centre and has worked in venues across North America.

“The upgrade is a big improvement over our older system. Patrons and clients alike will be impressed by the versatility and quality of our new sound and lights,” she said. “From community events to symphony and rock, the new system will cover the needs of everyone. We are extremely happy with our choices and look forward to audiences and users returning to showcase the upgrades.”  

In-house technicians who have worked in the theatre for decades installed the equipment. Blair Dykeman (lights), Ian Fraser (sound) and MJ MacLeod (stage carpenter) were on hand to explain the new system to Fillmore during the tour, and even let him take control. 

“I am honoured to be part of giving this gift — it is a gift for Dalhousie, a gift to our students, and a gift to the community," said Fillmore after the tour concluded. "Anyone who comes to a show will be blown away."

The Rebecca Cohn Auditorium is one of Atlantic Canada’s premier venues for the performing arts. The funding is provided by the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund, which seeks to improve physical conditions for artistic creativity and innovation. In Budget 2016, the Government of Canada dedicated $168.2 million to the Canada Cultural Spaces Fund over two years. This was followed by an additional $300 million for the fund over 10 years in this year’s budget.


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Khyber building sold to arts society for $1

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Members of the Halifax arts community erupted into cheers and applause Tuesday evening as Halifax regional council voted 14-1 to sell the historic Khyber building for $1.

For four years, the 1588 Barrington Building Preservation Society has been working to purchase and convert the now empty space into a community arts hub.

"I'm feeling really excited. This is a really positive day," said society president Emily Davidson. 

The 130-year-old heritage building has been vacant since 2014 due to asbestos and building code violations.

Emily Davidson, president of the 1588 Barrington Building Preservation Society, said the society is excited for the future of the building. (Emma Davie/CBC)

The society's $3 million renovation plans include adding an elevator and a fourth floor.

The proposal to the city included a one-time grant of up to $250,000 to put towards redevelopment and asbestos abatement.

Ideally, the rest of the money will come from fundraising, corporate sponsorship and government funding.

There is also a buy-back agreement that allows the city to repurchase the building for $1 if the funds can't be raised within two years.

Public hearing

About 20 people came to the public hearing on Tuesday and eight speakers, including Davidson, stood before council to explain what the Khyber means to them and what the building could be.

"The Khyber and what this building as a cultural hub would represent is a significant investment for the city towards supporting marginalized members of its communities," said Julie Hollenbach, co-chair of the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project.

"This space is important and spaces like this are important to the future of queer community in Halifax."

Hollenbach, who also works for NSCAD, added that it could also support students and young artists who study in Halifax and then have to leave because there are no spaces to support their practices.

Julia McMillan, artistic director for Eyelevel, said in 44 years the artist-run centre has moved 12 times.

She said within the next year, they'll have to move again and called the Khyber "essential."

"It takes months and months and time and resources and staff energy… to rebuild our spaces from scratch every few years. Imagine if we had the time and energy to put that into programming," she said.

Deputy Mayor Waye Mason tabled the motion to sell the building, calling the Khyber "a legendary building in this city."

"It's been agony for four years," he said of the work on this project, noting this was the seventh vote on this file.

The only councillor to vote against the motion was Matt Whitman, who raised concerns about the funding and request for tax-exempt status.

"The math doesn't work for me on this particular project," he said, adding he doesn't oppose the ideas for the building itself.

Still lots of work left to do

While the tax relief will be decided at a later date, Davidson said the plan is to ask for the non-profits to be exempt, but have commercial tenants pay taxes, which would guarantee the city some tax revenue.

Davidson said it will take at least three months for the sale to be finalized and there's plenty of work to do in the meantime.

"We're already going to be right along and rolling with our efforts to fundraise this project. We really want to make good on our promise to the community," she said.

The society also needs to make sure nothing in the building has changed since the last architectural assessment in 2015.

"We're not just reopening the building as is, we'll be recreating it as a space that can serve as a home for the arts community."

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Electronic Arts buys GameFly's Israel unit

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Computer gaming giant Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: EA) announced that it has acquired the cloud gaming technology assets and personnel of a subsidiary of GameFly Inc. in Israel. The team based in Caesarea develops streaming technology for cloud games. The acquisition including GameFly’s staff of 50 in Caesarea will become EA’s Israel development center.

Following the acquisition, the Israeli team will retain its current structure and continue working on developing technologies for EA. However, EA has not acquired the gaming streaming technology that GameFly’s Israel unit has developed. EA will develop its own services based on the technology that it has acquired.

GameFly’s Israel unit is based on the 2015 acquisition of Israeli startup Playcast for $30 million. Playcast was turned into GameFly’s Israel development center. The steaming technology developed in Caesarea served GameFly in creating a platform rather like Netflix’s except for streaming computer games.

EA CTO Ken Moss said, “Cloud gaming is an exciting frontier that will help us to give even more players the ability to experience games on any device from anywhere. We’re thrilled to bring this talented team’s expertise into EA as we continue to innovate and expand the future of games and play.”

EA added that with this acquisition, the company is adding to its strategic focus on advanced technologies that will give players more freedom to access the games they want, and enable the delivery of next-generation experiences at scale. The team based in Caesarea, Israel, will join EA’s functional teams, including the central technology organization that is responsible for developing and operating the cutting-edge platform that powers EA’s leading games and services.

The acquisition closed in May 2018. No financial details about the deal were disclosed.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news – www.globes-online.com – on May 23, 2018

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2018

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