Art sector survey shows growth but space and volunteer issues persist

Prince Edward County Mayor Steve Ferguson. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)




According to results of a recent Business Retention and Expansion (BR+E) survey, Prince Edward County has much to celebrate in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector with potential for strong growth but there are challenges around space and volunteers.

Each year the Community Development Department (CDD) surveys a business sector in the County of Prince Edward in order to understand trends, challenges, and opportunities.

The CDD conducted in-depth interviews with more than 70 businesses over the course of eight weeks.This year in total, more than 80 interviews were conducted over four months with representatives from 36 not-for-profit groups, sports leagues or associations dependent on volunteers and 44 for-profit businesses.

This year’s interviews included members of municipal ward recreation committees as well as businesses and organizations who represent each of the following categories:

  • theatre
  • musical groups and artists
  • festivals and events
  • artists and galleries (which includes writing)
  • museums and historical sites
  • nature parks and beaches
  • golf courses
  • marinas
  • fitness and recreation

Based on tools and templates provided by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs, a BR+E survey provides an in-depth look at the health and vitality of a sector within the economy.

The Community Development Department administered the survey on behalf of the Community and Economic Development Commission.

Previous BR+E surveys have been conducted with the agricultural, manufacturing, professional services, and health-care sectors. Results of these studies have helped set priorities and work plans while also garnering provincial and federal funding to help address the challenges and foster opportunities.

We have always had a vibrant arts, entertainment, and recreation scene – the many attractions draw thousands of visitors to our community each year,” says Steve Ferguson, Mayor of Prince Edward County. “We have built a reputation as one of the best places in Canada for arts and community, thanks to innovative leaders and passionate volunteers. We look forward to working with them to build on our successes and address the challenges outlined in this survey.”

The interviews revealed a significant majority (95 per cent) of businesses and organizations in the arts and entertainment sector have no succession plan and more than 85 per cent of them have no formal business or strategic plan, which indicates a possible area for further training and assistance.

Also, nearly 85 per cent of the organizations interviews cited The County’s aging population as both a challenge for recruiting and retaining volunteers and for adapting services to meet community needs.

And with more than 73,800 hours are represented by community volunteer organizations, these efforts could be negatively impacted by declining youth and aging population demographics in the community.

Businesses are challenged by unpredictable wages, changing consumer demographics and, in a number of cases, connectivity related to the internet,” Todd Davis, Acting Director of Community Development and Strategic Initiatives with The Corporation of the County of Prince Edward told The Gazette. “For the primarily recreation-based volunteer organizations, they are struggling with finding and recruiting volunteers, in some cases appropriate space issues (sourcing spaces can be a problem) and the effects of climate change.”

The report notes that expanding training in e-commerce and marketing may help artists, musicians, and others find new clients and stabilize their shoulder-season incomes.

Exploring opportunities in experiential tourism may also produce higher returns for high-quality events and workshops.

Key findings from the survey include

  • The Arts and Entertainment Sector represents 20 per cent of the workforce, 44 per cent higher than the national average
  • This Sector has grown more than 20 per cent since 2009
  • County of Prince Edward ranked as the ninth best place in Canada for arts and community by MoneySense ( in 2017
  • More than 90 per cent of businesses are locally owned and operated
  • Growth attributed to increasing visitor traffic and attractiveness of ‘The County’ brand
  • More than 90 per cent of survey respondents expect the arts, entertainment, and recreation sector to grow

These surveys help to inform the organizations in this sector of the economy of some of the shared challenges they face and the potential opportunities that might be available to them,” Davis expressed. “It also helps to draw attention to this sector of the economy for the community and other industry. For staff it helps to determine potential opportunities, might assist with developing programming and training and often is used as supporting data for any sector specific grants the organizations might be looking to apply to.”

Adapting to keep the pace is a must for artists and musicians with the changing needs of tourists and visitors, while sport leagues challenges are faced around limited space for play.

Recruiting and retaining quality volunteers for service organizations has also been reported facing challenges.

Survey responses suggest many entrepreneurs in the sector rely on additional sources of income, whether their offering workshop classes, accommodations or working in the service sector, it’s their way of making ends meet as sales tend to be seasonal and rely heavily on tourists as clientele.

Overall, Prince Edward County is fortunate to have such a strong and vibrant cultural scene where artists and musicians feel positive about the future,” says Rick Conroy, Chair of the municipality’s Community and Economic Development Commission (CEDC), which commissioned the study. “Information and data gleaned from these interviews help the CEDC inform future planning and activities to address challenges and ensure this sector thrives.”

For the full report please visit

For a backgrounder on the BR+E survey please visit