Commentary: Millenials for the arts

Changing demographics influence what our society deems as worthy-culture

Graphic by Nour Mazloum

A “culture lover” conjures up images of a wealthy old woman, gliding through a white-walled art gallery to the strains of Tchaikovsky.In reality, it’s a young person, hooked into social media and consuming culture at an ever-increasing rate. 

A 2018 study commissioned by the advocacy group Business for the Arts reveals the demographic consuming the most culture in Canada these days has received a modern update. 

The study aimed to determine what culturally-inclined Canadians want out of their art.

It asked Canadians to respond if they participated in any of 34 activities at least once a year. These ranged from going to see a play and visiting an art gallery, to public parks, heritage sites, books and TV, a Globe and Mail article reported. 

The study revealed Millennials aged 25-30 consume the most culture. Moreover, this new key demographic is primarily Allophone—Canadians who speak neither French nor English as their first language.

It paints a new picture of who is most likely to be consuming arts. 

Millennials are 1.5 times more likely than all other demographics to participate in arts activities on a monthly basis, and its largely facilitated through social media. 

More than half of Millennials had participated in traditional cultural events like events, and even more participated in its new forms, whether it’s attending food festivals or watching television. Groups indicated cultural engagement brought a sense of perspective and empathy, as well as a sense of belonging within their communities. 

However, Canadian youths’ cultural experience is unshakably digital. How that will come to affect the way art will be consumed in the future is yet to be seen. For now, it’s something that, for many, still hasn’t achieved the status of tangible items like concerts or fairs.

For Millennials that are breaking free from their parents’ tradition, moving to new cities, getting married later, and having children older, that sense of belonging can be critical in forming new connections and making new places feel like home. 

Greater access to movies, TV and music, as well as social media, which connects artists and art lovers worldwide, has made art perpetually accessible. 

What might have been an occasional trip to an art gallery, or a special trip to the theatre, is now on our Instagram, YouTube and Spotify feeds. What used to be exclusive is now online for millions to see. 

Through social media, art has come to mean something different for the average Millennial and Gen. Z than it may have 30 years ago. 

Despite this, digital art is still largely considered to be less-legitimate culture. However, social media sites are increasingly more accessible platforms for amateur artists to display their work. 

Largely, the country still leans towards low-tech access to arts, and tends to be unhappy with electronic encroachment onto traditional forms of art, according to the survey. 

It’s worth considering the future potential for digital art to dominate culture in its current quantity, as more and more artists get their start online, and multimedia, interactive, and digital art gain worldwide distribution and integration into more established cultural centres, like museums, galleries and monuments. 

As younger Canadians age, and bring with them a greater awareness of the amount of art available online, another shift in the country’s perception of culture is likely to follow. 

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