Waging Culture 2017 Demographics 2: First Language, Citizenship, and Racialized Status
Starting out from the under-representation of Allophone artists in the previous post, we looked first towards citizenship. In doing so, we’ve reduced this data to a dichotomous variable, turning the citizenship status of the artist respondents into a s0-called dummy variable. By doing this, it makes a nominal variable like Citizenship (where there are numerous responses which have no logical order to which numerical scores could be meaningfully applied) into a binary choice, which can be used in the process of data analysis. In the present case, we’ve valued responses of Canadian Citizen by birth as 1 and the remaining options (Canadian Citizen by naturalisation, Permanent resident, Temporary resident, and other) as 0. In doing so, we are assuming that there might be a different experience for artists who have immigrated, or are in the process of doing so, than those who have not.
There is a potential confounding variable in this situation, however, and one we did not surmise until after the first survey was complete. At the time, we surmised that American Vietnamese-war draft dodgers played a significant role in the Immigrant category, in light of their ubiquity in the development of the Canadian art scenes (and University departments) in the 1960s and 1970s. While they would be considered immigrants, they would not have had the same challenges that, for example, a more recent Syrian refugee would have in integrating into the Canadian visual art scene. The draft dodgers were, primarily, middle class, well educated, and easily assimilated into dominant Canadian society.
As we’ve considered this over the years, we are thinking more and more that there are in fact likely two distinct types within the category of immigrant visual artist: those that come for reasons of direct employment in the artistic and academic sector, and those that come for other reasons. This would certainly affect economic outcomes, if it is true, but we are restricted in not being able to separate out these two potential classes of immigrants.
Over all three surveys, the percentage of artists who are born Canadian has stayed consistently around 80%. In 2007, this meant that the ratio was exactly the same as it was in the broader Canadian labour force. In the last decade, however, we have seen a significant shift in the Canadian population as a whole, with immigrants making up an increasing percentage of the labour Force. From 78.4% in 2007, the percentage of the labour force that was born Canadian has dropped to 73.3%. Thus, while the make-up of the visual artist population remains consistent, it has begun to drift away from the labour force as a whole, suggesting one area of concern when questions of equity come up.
Finally, we should look to the question of broad ethnic categories. As will the question of citizenship, we have reduced our population to three main categories: Indigenous, caucasian, and racialized (formerly referred to as visible minorities. See our previous post for a short explanation of that shift).
The first thing to note is the small sample size for Indigenous artists in all three of the Waging Culture datasets. There are not enough respondents to be able to make reliable estimates of how well our sample reflects the whole Indigenous visual artist population (we certainly have little to no representation of Inuk artists in the numbers). For that reason, when we get to financial analyses, we will be reducing this category further, so that the comparison will be of Caucasian artists to non-Caucasian.
In the meantime, though, we do have these broad breakdowns that do in themselves have a story to tell. As we have noted in the past, the main mode of discrimination in the field appears to be rooted in a lower overall level of participation of Indigenous and racialized artists in the field. In looking at the 2017 results, then, one could understandably believe that there has been progress on this score, with Caucasian artists dropping from just under 90% to just under 84%. Alas, over the same time, the general labour force in Canada has itself shifted, become less Caucasian, and so, even though the share of artists who are Caucasian has decreased, it hasn’t decreased at the same rate as the population at large! For racialized artists, the level of relative representation has dropped. Representation of Indigenous artists, however, has shifted towards a more equitable position, but still falls short by over 10%.
 We would still likely have to consider draft dodgers as distinct from other types of immigrants, but it we can’t parse out these artists in our data set.
 There may be confounding variables at play here, as well, in the notion of a professional practice being itself a Eurocentric concept, and thus biased towards Caucasians. This may also be seen in so-called traditional crafts, particularly classed and racialized crafts, being sidelined from professional mainstream venues.
This is one of a series of mini-reports on the results of the 2017 Waging Culture survey, a study of the socio-economic conditions faced by Canadian-resident professional visual artists. Supported by the Art Gallery of York University, it is an undertaking of Michael Maranda. This is the third iteration of the survey which was funded by a Supporting Artistic Practice project grant from the Canada Council. Comments and questions may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
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