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Nelson arts sector study shows housing, cost of living challenges

An economic study of Nelson’s arts and culture community shows housing and cost of living weighs heavily on the sector.

The report, entitled Economic Conditions of the Nelson and Area’s Arts, Culture and Heritage Sector, was presented to Nelson’s committee of council Tuesday night.

The study was commissioned by the City of Nelson and completed by Community Futures Central Kootenay, Nelson District Arts Council and Selkirk College’s Selkirk Innovates.

It focused on the supply side alone from the arts and culture sector and has determined it contributes $14 to $24 million to Nelson’s local economy. Businesses revenue is between $7 and $12 million and artists’ income is $4 million to $5.6 million.

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There were 84 surveys completed for the study with nearly two-thirds of them working artists.

Speaking to the pressures of the pandemic, the survey found cost of living in Nelson and housing costs were the biggest pressures.

Coun. Keith Page noted it should be time for the city to look at purpose-built housing in order to preserve the sector’s standing as an arts and culture hub in the Kootenays.

“Nelson is Nelson and all of the windfalls that we receive as this beautiful town are a consequence of the diverse arts and culture community that really gives us a very specific brand and global awareness. People come here because of it,” Page said.

Coun. Rik Logtenberg was also concerned about protecting Nelson as a cultural hub against the “increasing gentrification” as artists are “pushed out” to outlying areas outside the city due to housing affordability.

“Nelson being the tourist hub this is where the sales would happen even if the artists are getting pushed out. Even if they’re not residents they are still our artists if this is where they sell their work, if this is where they show their work and if this is where they contribute to the culture of the community,” Logtenberg said.

Some of the other findings in the report:

  • Nelson’s arts, culture, recreation and sport employment is about 5.8 per cent (335 people). That’s higher than the B.C. estimate of 3.8 per cent and higher than other local sectors.
  • The average hourly wage for full-time employees is $30, part-time is $26 and casual is $22.
  • Only 27 per cent of respondents receive all their income from arts and culture, meaning they hold other jobs.
  • The sector’s loss of revenue during the pandemic was an average of 20 per cent.
  • Forty per cent of people and 46 per cent of organizations didn’t access any COVID-19 relief funding for a mix of reasons.

The study group is meeting with the Nelson and Area Economic Development Partnership about next steps. It wants to hold a follow-up survey within the next two years to dive into the demand side of arts and culture when many of the effects of the pandemic have passed.

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