The Arts Council of Ladysmith is leading the way on a project that aims to get arts recognized as a significant industry on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. With funding from the Canada Council for the Arts, it partnered with other councils in the region to conduct an impact study to show the value art brings to communities.
“Itis larger than many industries, like the lumber industry and the fishing industry in our community and it’s probably not recognized because many of them are individuals,” said Kathy Holmes, president of the Arts Council of Ladysmith and District. “People don’t think of them as a business and really, artists are their own business.”
The arts council partnered with the Digital Innovation Group (DIG), a collective of island arts councils, to bring together nearly 1500 artists and art supporters in the spring to assess the economic, social, cultural and health impacts of arts in the region.
“No other art council has even attempted to do this. It’s been a huge project, we are exhausted and what’s coming out now is really important,” Holmes said.
DIG will present the study’s findings at this year’s Vancouver Island Economic Alliance Summit this month. The study found one in 20 people in the region is an artist and over 90 per cent of respondents felt arts are foundational to economic, community and individual wellness, according to DIG’s summary of findings.
“We were looking for meaningful data to quantify the contribution of the arts sector to our region and are thrilled to learn that there are over 35,000 artists and that our sector generates almost one billion dollars in direct economic outputs,” said Ora Steyn, vice president of the Ladysmith Arts Council.
The Ladysmith Waterfront Gallery has been operating out of the old school on Parkhill Terrace for the last two years and Holmes said it has had a large impact on the volume of visitors.
“The Membership is still being very faithful. We worked very hard at keeping them but the public is not coming in droves so we are trying to build that capacity again but it took us a long time to get to 13,000 people a year,” Holmes said.
The gallery will be hosting Yael Wand, a Salt Spring Island musician on Friday (Oct. 22.) Tickets are on sale now on the art council’s website.