Tag Archives: Barriers

Diversity, Equity, and Access in Arts & Culture: Why It Matters

I was 21 years old the first time I visited a museum outside of a school trip – I remember visiting the ROM’s planetarium in the second grade. I was intimidated and did not feel it was for people like me, I thought, once I step in they would know that I was an outsider and didn’t belong. What if I didn’t have the right clothes or conduct myself the right way? They would know. Up until this point, all I would have known about museums was what I learned from television and films.

It was 2008, the opening week of the “Transformed” Art Gallery of Ontario, more than 68,000 people crowded through the newly renovated AGO during that opening week — admission was free that weekend (thank you BMO for sponsoring) and I was one of the 68,000 people who visited. It was packed and full of people from all walks of life, different from what I expected; it was welcoming. I could not believe this gem existed and that I had never visited.

The arts always felt a bit out of reach for me, and again, that it was not for me, so the more I wanted to challenge my feelings of exclusion and personal biases of the arts as exclusionary (especially given the fact that the arts sector is publicly funded!). I began to immerse myself, reading, and watching documentaries on the topic and attending more art shows. I also slowly started to expand my interest into classical music, ballets, and operas *when discounted tickets and free nights allowed me to* (thanks to government funding and programs supported generously by donors).

Experiencing all that arts and culture has to offer and knowing all the barriers there are to access, was one of the reasons I chose to build a career in fundraising – I wanted to be part of the change and scale social impact through inclusion and access.

Over the years, my affinity for arts and culture organizations in Toronto (or at least to those I could access) has grown, and I support them in whatever way I can, whether inviting others to join me at a show, donating or volunteering my time.

There are many great outreach programs designed to help access arts and culture in the city of Toronto. For example, The Toronto Public Library Map program is one of the many exceptional programs in the city affording access to arts and culture – offering free admission to Toronto museums and cultural attractions to anyone with a library card (but there is a limited number of cards in circulation). Many organizations have their own programs designed to increase access – whether it be through discount tickets, rush tickets the day of events, free days/evenings, etc. Nevertheless, arts and culture organizations need to take further action to attract diverse audiences, and that extends to programming, donors, employees, volunteers, and other key stakeholder groups if they want to bring value and truly enrich the lives of Canadians – equity is vital to achieving this. Everyone deserves to benefit, and there is room for everyone.

Not sure why diversity, equity, and access matters to the Arts and Culture Sector?

Here are five facts that will affect the future of the sector:

  1. Shift in Demographics – According to Stats Canada by 2031, the percentage of individuals belonging to a visible minority could exceed 40% in Ontario.
  2. Shift in Workforce Culture – In 2016, individuals aged 55 and over accounted for 36% of the working-age population, the highest proportion on record (Stats Canada, 2016). Without diversity as a part of organizational culture, replacement of this workforce will not occur (Stats Canada, 2016). By 2020, it is estimated there will be a talent shortage of 85 million skilled workers (Fortune, 2015) (KPMG, 2017).
  3. Shift in Business Norms Led by Millennials – Thanks to technology and social media, millennials are exercising their influence as employees and customers on organizations to create inclusive and diverse workplaces. By 2020, millennials will account for 50% of Canada’s workforce (Globe & Mail, 2017) – if organizations do not adapt, they could risk high and costly turnover (KPMG, 2017).
  4. Shifts in Wealth Accumulation – According to a survey conducted by BMO Harris Private Banking, 48% of people with liquid assets of $1M or more are immigrants or described themselves as first-generation Canadians with at least one parent born outside of Canada (Globe & Mail, 2018).
  5. Shift in Grant Making Strategies – In 2016, Canadian Council for the Arts released its five-year strategic plan which affirms their commitment to equity and inclusion, stating that, “Canada’s major arts organizations will be models of diversity and innovation” (we can check back in 2022) – the bar has been set (Canada Council for the Arts, 2016).

When looking at the shifts in trends, it is important to note where we currently stand. Older donors (55+) account for 47% of all donations made, and the population around us is aging fast. For the first time, seniors outnumber children in Toronto and are the most common household type (Toronto Foundation, Vital Signs Report, 2018). As of now, Arts and Culture receive 1.3% of the donor dollars in Canada, to put things into perspective, religious organizations represent 41% of total donations, and among non-religious organizations, the health sector receives 13% (Statistics Canada, 2013). So, who will replace arts and culture donors in the future? Time to focus on diversity, equity, and access.

Teresa Catalano was born and raised in northwest Toronto to immigrant parents and is a fundraiser in higher education.

Unpaid Internships and the Obstacles to Economic Mobility

My first year of University was ending and everyone was talking about their summer plans and the internships they had lined up (their parents knew someone who knew someone). I wondered if my family knew anyone in the corporate, professional world who would offer me an internship. The reality was, I had no connections, and I was going to take on more hours at my minimum wage retail job.

At the time, everyone would stress the importance of internships, you would gain valuable work experience, and that it would lead to jobs so if it was unpaid, it was just part of “paying your dues.” At this point, I had already completed a year of volunteering at a television network and one unpaid internship to graduate from my college diploma before transferring to university. I really could not afford to do another unpaid internship, but I also could not afford not to given how critical they are in launching careers. Coming from a single-family immigrant household, and knowing the importance of building my network and need for economic mobility, I began to apply anywhere and everywhere.

During my search, I stumbled on a position at an arts organization that was paid (minimum wage, but paid!) and quickly put my name forward. As I continued to search for openings, I received a call for an interview for a public relations internship at one of the most coveted arts organizations in the country! I was overwhelmed and terrified at the same time; this would be my big break if I could get in. At the interview, I learned that there were more than 500 applicants, I felt like I won the lottery, and that even if I did not get the job, I was recognized, and all the free work was worth it. The following week I received the call that I landed the internship (!), I said thank you and proceeded to burst into tears as soon as the call ended.

According to a 2018 study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, when employers are deciding between two equally qualified candidates, completing an internship ranked higher in what influences their hiring decision compared to the applicants’ major or their GPA. Looking back, that internship was my big break, and if the internship was unpaid, I might not have been able to launch my career in the non-profit sector. I worry for the sector as unpaid internships could limit the intern pool to those with the financial means and leave students from more diverse economic and cultural backgrounds behind by lowering their chances of building vital work experience.

Today, the federal government has banned unpaid internships in federally regulated industries, and in Ontario, the Ministry of Labour has clarified that they are legal in only certain instances, i.e., academic credit. However, in provinces such as Nova Scotia and Québec non-profits are exempt and can offer unpaid internships. In a Brookings blog post by Joanna Venator, she writes,

One of the obstacles to greater intergenerational mobility (of the relative kind) is the ‘glass floor’ that keeps less-talented children born to affluent parents at the top of the income ladder. One way in which affluent parents protect their children from falling is by using personal or professional connections to arrange job or internship opportunities—but there are less-visible forms of protection, such as paying the summer living costs that make an unpaid internship feasible. This is not meritocracy: It is opportunity hoarding.

Here is the issue: If you are not paid the likely options to support yourself are:
a) work throughout the year and save enough to cover your expenses for the summer (housing, food, transportation etc. – basic needs)
b) Have the assistance of parents/loved ones to support you financially
c) spend energy and time and take on a second job.

I chose c).

I spent two hours commuting each way and then another 1.5 -2 hours (depending on transit) to get to my part-time job after my internship – I spent nearly 6 hours of my day commuting, I did this daily. I never wanted anyone to know how long my commute was or where I lived, anxious that I may not be given the job or have someone assume I could not make it work. My quality of life suffered, but I made it work for that summer. I truly believe unpaid internships pose a major barrier to entering the non-profit sector (or any sector for that matter), creating inequality and a decline in racial representation as the entry cost is too high—inaccessible.