Media Release

Published March 31, 2020


March 31, 2020

Ontario Art Galleries losses to mount up to $13 Mn in next six months

Ontario Association of Art Galleries (OAAG) in the second phase of our COVID-19 Impact study with input from 60% of our stakeholders, grave concerns regarding the business continuity of these organizations have been raised. Over the next six months, across Ontario, the Public Art Galleries will have a conservative total loss upto $13 million. At stake are the small and mid-scale institutions across the 63 communities in Ontario.

“As an underfunded sector, the Public Art Galleries were already reeling under immense fiscal pressure. COVID 19 crisis is another blow in succession to the Sector. OAAG’s impact studies show the sector is hurting in this crisis. With the impending recession as per the International Monetary Fund, we are facing tough times ahead,” says Zainub Verjee, Executive Director of OAAG.

Verjee adds, “We want to ensure that the needs of Public Art Galleries are explicitly addressed in crisis mitigation, business continuity and recovery planning and that funds are allocated to the Visual Arts sector within the current relief measures for COVID-19”.

“OAAG calls for a Public Art Galleries Fund and Digitization Fund that addresses the gap in the mitigation of crisis and to ensure the business continuity to enable a sustainable recovery. We have sent our recommendations to the Honorable Minister Lisa MacLeod,” adds Verjee.

OAAG is a unique and leading organization in the Visual Arts Sector, representing Public Art Galleries, giving voice and supporting more than 270 members across the province.

The Visual Arts sector is a complex ecosystem consisting of visual artists, art professionals, art businesses such as art transportation, art publishers and other allied professions. The contribution of this sector on the economy is substantial and the sustainability of the sector is critical to hundreds of art professionals, businesses, associations, and artists.

Apart from being an employment provider, Public Art Galleries are vital to the tourism sector, community assets and social infrastructure across all the communities in Ontario.

In its 50th year, OAAG stands ready to bring data from the frontlines of the sector and provide advice on the development of strategies for mitigation, continuity and recovery from the consequences of the pandemic. The current crisis and the imperatives of Public Health measures are having an adverse impact and strain on severely limited budgets, severe financial stress and depleting resources of our membership.

As a partner in solutions, OAAG is concerned about the response to the mitigation of the crisis. We are hearing a focus on recovery, but our grave concern is that without business continuity, given the fragility of the underfunded Visual Arts sector, there will be nothing left to recover from.

In this crisis, the Art Galleries and artist community are doing their best to continue their presence and engagement with their audience. Going digital and virtual has been the clarion call in this crisis. But we have to differentiate between social media ready and going digital in terms of collections, exhibitions and programming.

Digitization of Collections is a complex process. It is not as simple as a 360 degrees Real Estate solution! The capacity to engage audiences online is not developed in the sector nor do galleries have their collections digitized to be brought online. The exceptions to this are large institutions like the Royal Ontario Museum or Art Gallery of Ontario. Further, our membership informs us through our impact survey that there is limited in-house expertise, funds, and it can take from 2 weeks to 24 weeks of time to create digital resources,” cautions Verjee.

We all recognize the burdens presented during these challenging times and appreciate all of the government’s efforts to support the culture sector.

The OAAG is continuing discussions with the Provincial and Federal Governments and their agencies to help with the relief and recovery plans for Public Art Galleries.

Download the full media release below

Phone: (416) 598-0714