A View of Calgary’s Arts Organizations

A View of Calgary’s Arts Organizations

To date, there has been no comprehensive study done on the annual operations of not-for-profit arts organizations in Calgary.

Arts organizations, artists and municipalities can benefit from knowing where they stand on a local, regional and national level. By having concrete data in our hands—and the stories behind it—we are in a better position to celebrate our successes, see where gaps exist and work from a position of knowledge in
order to ensure that the sector thrives.

This report is an overview and analysis of information gathered from the applications of over 161 non-profit arts organizations that applied for municipal funding through Calgary Arts Development’s annual Operating Grant Program. All figures reported are for an annual cycle during 2009 and have been gathered using Canadian Arts Data/Données sur les arts au Canada (CADAC). The profiles of organizations in this report reflect current activities. To our knowledge, this white paper is the first of its kind for any municipal funding body in Canada.

Launched in 2008 and jointly developed by a collection of funding agencies across Canada, CADAC is a web-based application dedicated to the collection, dissemination and analysis of financial and statistical information about Canadian arts organizations. CADAC allows arts organizations that are applying for grants locally, provincially and nationally to submit financial and statistical information in a standard format and through a single online source. 2010 is Calgary Arts Development’s first year in which applicants to the Operating Grant Program have been asked to complete their financial and statistical data using this system, and the first time this statistical overview has been made available.

In an effort to better serve Calgary’s arts groups with valuable and relevant data, Calgary Arts Development’s intent is to continue publishing an annual report based on Operating Grant Program data submitted.

The figures represented in this report do not include ad hoc arts groups, artist collectives, for-profit arts organizations, individual artists, organizations and others in the creative industries sector that do not have an arts mandate as their core or operate under a non-profit structure.

About the Operating Grant Program

The goal of the Operating Grant Program is to ensure that Calgary arts organizations and artists have the opportunity to flourish in an environment with a stable base of resources.

The 2010 Program invested close to 3.8 million dollars in 161 local arts organizations. Mandated to invest “first in” dollars that organizations can use to leverage other revenue (ticket sales, investment income, sponsorship dollars and funding from various levels of government), the program strategically invests in organizations that demonstrate strong artistic and public impact. The program utilizes a peer-based assessment panel to make informed investments in the arts sector.

As shown in this report, the dollars invested in arts organizations on behalf of Calgarians translate into multiple and diverse opportunities for citizens to actively engage as participants, audience members, volunteers, employees and artists within their communities and the city at large. By investing in arts
organizations, citizens are contributing to the city’s economic and social well-being and the
overall vibrancy of Calgary.

The Operating Grant Program is divided into four streams and represents the disciplines of music, theatre, dance, visual art, literary art, film, new media or an amalgamation of
multiple disciplines.

I. Community Organizations

The primary activity of the organization must be to support, present or produce the work of non-professional artists or professional artists that are engaged as volunteers (i.e. not being paid an artist fee).

II. Festival Organizations

The primary purpose of the organization must be the delivery of a stand-alone arts festival. Calgary Arts Development defines an arts festival as a special event that occurs within a defined, limited period
of time, with the primary purpose of presenting a multi-faceted, broad-based celebratory experience with activities that are accessible to the general community and that gather audiences in excess of 100 persons.

III. Large Organizations

Organizations that have an annual operating budget of $1 million or greater, based on an average of their last three years of operations. The primary purpose of the organization must be to support, present or produce the work of professional artists.

IV. Professional Organizations

Organizations that have an annual operating budget of less than $1 million, based on an average of their last three years of operations. The primary purpose of the organization must be to support, present or produce the work of professional artists. Organizations that have a festival as a secondary program to their year-round operations should apply through this program.


Attendance and Participation

Calgarians are actively engaged in their local arts scene as participants, audience members, employees and/or volunteers.

  • There are over 7,300 opportunities to view and participate in activities offered by arts organizations each year.
  • Total public attendance at arts activities including theatre, dance, opera, gallery exhibitions, concerts, film screenings and literary readings is nearly 2.7 million.
  • An average arts organization in Calgary offers 44 activities per year with an overall annual attendance of over 16,000.

Employment and Artists

The non-profit arts sector employs close to 9,000 administrators and artists, making it one of the largest “employers” in Calgary.

  • Arts organizations employ over 8,200 professional artists and over 700 full-time staff.
  • The work of these artists is diverse, ranging from performing full-time as cellists for the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra to onetime contracts to perform at the GRAND Theatre.
  • 20% of the over 8,200 artists working for arts organizations in Calgary are also engaged in educational activities.
  • 64% of arts organizations work with 10 or more artists per year, with the average organization engaging 50 artists.
  • Arts organizations have an average of 4.4 “full-time equivalent” (FTE) staff and also rely heavily on volunteers to assist with their mandates.
  • The median earning of Calgary artists in 2006 was $14,500. This is 54% less than the median of all Calgary workers.
  • Calgary’s 13 professional arts organizations with budgets of over $1 million employ
    40% of the FTE staff.


Giving adds value to our lives and the lives of others. Calgary is considered the Volunteer Capital of Canada, with 76% of people stating a desire to “make a difference in their community” as their reason for volunteering. In the arts sector, volunteers contribute heavily and in a wide range of roles.

  • In 2009, over 20,000 people spent over 600,000 hours volunteering for arts organizations. That’s over 50,000 hours per month and a 23% increase in less than five years.
  • The national figures for volunteerism in arts and culture in 2007 saw 698,000 Canadians volunteering 73.5 million hours in arts and culture.
  • The median number of volunteers for organizations is 59, with responsibilities ranging from basic operations to board governance.
  • 75% of those who volunteer with Calgary arts organizations volunteer with festivals and community arts organizations.
  • The Calgary Folk Music Festival has the largest number of volunteers at 1,612. In 2009, over 1000 individuals applied to 328 new Festival volunteer positions.


Arts education makes us better problem solvers and better human beings. It gives us a broader perspective and a deeper appreciation and understanding of the world we live in. Almost all of Calgary’s
arts organizations have some form of educational programming as a component of their mandate.

  • Total recorded attendance at arts education activities in 2009 was just over l million.
  • In one year, there were over 10,000 opportunities for Calgarians to participate in workshops, courses, lectures, presentations and other arts education activities.
  • Of the more than 8,000 artists engaged by arts organizations, 20% contribute to arts
    education activities.


Cities need creativity. Creativity needs space. The City of Calgary and Calgary Arts Development have committed funds to the development of spaces to make this happen.

  • 10% of total expenditures by arts organizations are facility expenses.
  • 34% of arts organizations spend $25,000 or more on their facilities each year.
  • In 2008, Calgary’s City Council committed $165 million or 3% of Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funds to culture-related infrastructure over the next 10 years.
  • Calgary Arts Development’s 2008 Art Space Investment Process recommended 15 projects to Calgary’s City Council for investment through MSI. Of those 15 projects, five venues are either complete or are slated for completion by 2013.

Economic Contribution

Almost 50% of arts organizations’ total revenue is earned directly through their activities and programming, and just over 25% through public funding. The bulk of expenses are rolled back into the
community, going to artists and artistic expenses.


  • The total revenue of arts organizations is $103 million.
  • 40% of the total revenue is directly earned by the activities of the organizations, including ticket sales, subscriptions, admission sales, fees from workshops, classes, seminars, memberships and facilities and equipment rentals.
  • 30% of the total revenue is from private investments by individuals and businesses through donations, sponsorships and fundraising initiatives. Donations and sponsorship dollars make up 82% of the total private revenue.
  • 27% of the total revenue is from public investments that range from one-time, project-based grants to annual operating grants and casino funds. The Province of Alberta is the biggest public investor, making up 54% of the total public dollars that are invested in arts organizations.
  • Every dollar invested into arts organizations by The City of Calgary in 2009 was leveraged to $27.
  • 60% of organizations have revenues that are greater than $100K.
  • 67% of organizations ended their 2009 fiscal year with either a balanced budget or a surplus.


  • Total expenses of arts organizations are $100 million; this includes artistic expenses, administration, facility operations, fundraising and marketing.
  • 52% of total expenses are spent on artistic expenses including artists’ fees, artists’ catalogues and publications, arts education initiatives, artistic programs and exhibitions, creation of new works,
    production costs, collections management and loan and acquisition of artworks and performances.
  • 61% of organizations spend $50K or more on artistic expenses.

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A View Of Calgary's Arts Organizations Cover