The OAF Blog

Professional Development in the Arts

May 02, 2014


I read a timely blog posting that should be on the agenda of the Board of any arts organization. The thrust is that a greater focus is needed on developing the professional skillsof arts managers/leaders. It is well accepted in the corporate world that an organization’s success is tied with a continuous focus on growing the abilities and skills of today and tomorrow’s leaders. This is equally applicable to arts and culture.

Professional Development Training
Critical to the success of any business are the skills of management. Professional development training should be part of running any business entity. Arts organizations are small, and in some situations, large businesses. One of the roles a board can play is to help identify for the organization’s managers, what professional development may be most appropriate for the arts organization, what is affordable and where to source the training. This illustrates the value of a board member with human resources skills or professional development experience.

We recognize that training has a cost attached to it, and resources are always limited. It is, an investment that can lead to a more efficiently run organization, an organization that retains/develops staff ( impacting productivity ), and one adapts to changing business/economic realities. There is a whole range of skills required to run a healthy organization. If there are opportunities to improve personal and professional skills, the more the arts organization will be positioned to meet the most complex problems. Learning is an ongoing process, both at the creative and management level. Professional development should not be a ‘nice to have’.


Prioritize training
The blog recommends that two things need to happen – the arts sector culture should recognize that continuing skills training is critical to survival and should be accessible throughout the organization. This should translate into a line item in the arts organizations’ budget – for board, staff and perhaps even volunteers. The budget line has to align with organization resources, but this is an investment I believe, most funders will understand, and support.

Like any business, the arts sector is experiencing the start of a transition from the current generation of arts managers to the next. Providing professional skills training is critical – be it business management, leadership skills to managing in a new economy and a changing technology environment. Sharing institutional knowledge and life experience is part of that mix.

I found the blog post compelling and a quick read – I encourage you to read it, share it with your Board and incorporate professional development as part of your organizations’ financial plan.

(Barry's Blog is a service of the Western States Arts Federation, WESTAF).



The Economic Value of Arts Education

March 20, 2014

In a recent submission to the Province of Ontario recommending re-instatement of the Arts Endowment Fund matching program, we make the argument that an investment in the arts is an investment in economic growth and job creation. Economic studies increasingly report on the positive economic activity resulting from arts and culture activity. As examples:

        • 252,000 people in Ontario are directly employed in arts and culture

        • In 2010, 73% of Ontario residents attended a performing arts event, spending an estimated $600 million

        • Government tax revenue ( from all levels ) from arts and culture spending was approx. $1.7 billion


Economic Benefits of Arts Education
What isn’t as commonly reported are economic benefits arising from arts education activity. A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education comments on the ‘economic value’ of an arts education. The study (by the National Endowment for the Arts) is interesting as it seeks to follow the relationship of arts and culture industries to GDP ( a countries’ gross domestic product ). It would be interesting to unearth Canadian data, but the summary results suggest arts education is a path that leads to greater creativity and innovation in the work force.

        • In the US, arts education added $76. Billion to the country’s GD

        • Arts education as an ‘industry’ employed almost 18,000 people

        • For every dollar spent by a consumer on arts education, an additional 56 cents is generated elsewhere in the US economy.


Intrinsic Benefits
Education in dance, theatre, music and the visual arts stimulates curiosity, creativity, imagination and capacity for evaluation – skills highly prized in in the work force.  An older report by the RAND Corporation ( Gifts of the Muse – 2004 ) comments on two benefits from arts participation. They were phrased as ‘intrinsic benefits’ which connect with ‘a distinctive type of pleasure and emotional stimulation’ for the participant, and ‘instrumental’ benefits, more output/quantitative oriented. The article uses the analogy of an arts festival, which creates local economic activity (instrumental) and social interactions within a community (intrinsic). Instrumental benefits have been more difficult to quantify and therefore have been reported on less, but now with this study, direct economic benefits can be articulated and measured.

It would be beneficial, if it could be universally accepted that arts education is integral to education at all levels. Being able to point to economic benefits may help promote arts education, at a time when it can be the first budget to be cut/cut back in challenging financial times. In the arts organizations we serve, many organizations direct endowment income towards arts education/arts outreach programs in their local communities. As well as instilling the ‘instrinsic benefits’ to children, youth and adults, these program employ artists. In smaller communities, arts education programs ( culture activity in general ) are important draws to professionals considering locating in a non-metropolitan community. As arts director recently stated to us – ‘The interest from the Arts Endowment Fund supports our arts education programs for students attending schools in Toronto’s priority and inner city neighbourhoods. Many of these children are new to Canada and many have, otherwise limited access to arts education experience with a talented professional artist.”

We believe strongly in arts education – it is good economics, our artists deserve it, and the kids deserve it.

For more information on the article, and the original RAND study ( it is long, consider reading the Summary section ):



2014 Federal Budget – Changes to Charitable Donations

March 03, 2014

The federal budget proposes to increase flexibility to Executors in the tax treatment of charitable donations made by an individual at their death through a bequest in their Will.

During your lifetime, Canada’s tax rules allow an individual, who makes a charitable donation to claim an income tax credit calculated on the fair market value of the donated property. You are limited each year to claiming donations up to a maximum of 75% of your net income. Donations not claimed in a year can also be carried forward for any of the next five years.

In the year of death, a charitable bequest, or designation of the proceeds of an RRSP, RRIF, TFSA or life insurance policy to a charity, is treated as having been made by the individual immediately before death. The value of such gifts, up to 100% of net income can be deducted in the deceased person’s final tax return. Any balance over 100% of net income in the year of death can also be carried back to the prior year. Such gifts are very beneficial in reducing income tax payable by the Estate.

2014 Budget
The 2014 budget proposes to introduce additional flexibility to the Estate Trustee. Instead of the donation being deemed to be made immediately before death, charitable donations/designations will deemed to have been made by the Estate at the time the gift is paid to the charity. This is usually in the first year after the date of death in most situations. The charitable deduction can be claimed in either the tax year the bequest is paid, the year of death as part of the final T-1 return, or be carried back to the last two taxation years. To be eligible, the charitable gift must be paid to the charity within 36 months of the death of the individual.

Bottom Line
It sounds complicated, but the bottom line is that gifts to a charity from an estate, by way of a bequest or designation can now be reported in several ways, allowing the Estate Trustee the opportunity to fully apply the value of the gift against income tax payable in the year of death, or reduce tax payable in the two years prior to death. There is now a greater opportunity to ensure that a charitable donation can be used to reduce taxable income of the taxpayer in a manner most advantageous to the estate.

The changes are expected to be applicable to deaths/estates which occur after 2015. It affords a new and welcome degree of flexibility in managing the taxation that arises in an individual’s estate.



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