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Culture by the numbers

November 26, 2018
Iain Sellers, The Fulcrum


On Thursday, Nov. 22, the University of Ottawa hosted the Ottawa Culture Research Group (OCRG), and other leaders in the cultural community, for a conversation about the role of culture in the National Capital Region.

The OCRG was created in 2016 by an assembly of academics, governmental officials, and experts, to identify indicators of culture in Ottawa—which the group has tried to detail in the report that they released this year.

“I think this conference was just to acquaint the audience with the existence of this report, because it is the first attempt that anyone has done (that looks at) the indicators of culture … in the city of Ottawa,” M. Sharon Jeannotte, a Senior Fellow at the Centre on Governance of the University of Ottawa, and co-chair of the Ottawa Culture Research Group, explained.

The symposium, titled “Counting on Culture,” began with a brief explanation of the four pillars of the report, followed by a panel discussion by experts, and a question period from the audience.

“The group’s mandate is to identify, gather, analyze, and share reliable information, and data pertaining to the state of Ottawa’s cultural sector,” Diana Carter, the executive director for the Ottawa Museum Network and Ottawa Cultural Alliance, and the other co-chair of the OCRG, explained to the audience.

The report focuses on four pillars of Ottawa’s cultural industries—support, presence, participation, and impact—whose form can range from a live band that performs at bars, to nationally funded museums.

For Jeannotte, one of the most unexpected findings of the report was the impact that culture has on the local economy, “because everyone thinks that culture is this thing that’s on the side that doesn’t have much impact but, it contributes 3.4 billion dollars to the local economy,” she said. “That, I think, is going to open up a few eyes among the decision makers.”

Indeed, other notable findings in the report included tables that show the Ottawa-Gatineau region as having a higher proportion of people working in the culture industry than the national average, and others that raise questions about the way that funding is split amongst major cities—with Toronto and Montreal maintaining some of the highest funding per capita.

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