On April 26, 1963, Bill 162, the Act to establish the Province of Ontario Council for the Arts was passed in the Ontario legislature. It was thanks to a handful of visionary Ontarians who approached then Premier of Ontario, John Robarts, with the idea of establishing a provincial arts council. This group, led by Arthur Gelber, represented the fledgling arts infrastructure that then existed in Ontario. In that first year, the Ontario Arts Council (OAC) provided 58 grants to arts organizations.
Over time, the funds provided by the Government of Ontario through OAC have supported the growth of the professional not-for-profit arts sector around the province. In 2021-22, OAC invested in 237 communities across Ontario through 2,665 grants to individual artists and 1,050 grants to organizations. In 2019-20, a total of 12.8 million audience members and 2.8 million arts learners participated in events produced by OAC-funded artists and arts organizations.
Artists and arts organizations have contributed so much to the quality of life of our communities. Children have benefitted from arts experiences through field trips and artists coming into classrooms to engage them in the creative process. During the pandemic, many of us took solace in books, music, films and online art galleries featuring visual artists among other things.
Arts and culture activity represents $27 billion or 3.4 per cent of the province's gross domestic product and accounts for 254,985 jobs, which is 3.8 per cent of total Ontario employment1.The OAC is proud of the part that we have played in fostering our province’s arts ecology.
When arts history was being made at Queen’s Park, Ontario’s population stood at 6.5 million. Last year, Statistics Canada counted Ontario’s population at 14.2 million with 250 ethno-cultural communities. We will not throw ourselves a birthday party, but we will continue to do our work behind the scenes to nurture the great talent in this province and to provide opportunities to the next generation of Ontario artists.
Thank you to those far-sighted leaders in the provincial legislature 60 years ago! We are all the richer for their support.
Rita Davies, CM
1Statistics Canada (2022, June). Table 36-10-0452-01 Culture and sport indicators by domain and sub-domain, by province and territory, product perspective (x 1,000).