Two musicians playing the guitar and drums at the YWCA Re:Imagine Fashion event in 2021 for Culture Days. The one closest to the camera is wearing a face mask.

Survey Sets Stage for Bouncing Back From COVID

March, 2023

Two plus years and the COVID-19 pandemic continues to challenge the cultural community in the province. A survey, launched by SaskCulture and its partners in June 2021, found that at the time 67% of respondents saw a decrease in demand for programs, products and services, 76% had decreased revenues and 84% saw a decrease in volunteerism during the first year of COVID.

The Bouncing Back from COVID Survey, commissioned by SaskCulture, Creative Saskatchewan and SK Arts, gathered data from over 400 respondents to get a more realistic picture of the impact. Besides COVID restrictions reducing in-person programming, survey respondents shared other concerns, which included: identifying the need for adapted program delivery, ‘stressed out’ human resources and the need for updated skills and technology.

“There was no question that the cultural community was impacted,” says Dean Kush, CEO, SaskCulture. “The question was to what degree and in which way could we, as funders, help to bring back participants and audiences to pre-pandemic levels.”

Close to 63% of respondents feared that the clients/audiences/participants won’t return, and 56% feared that if they do return, it will happen slowly. “The biggest focus right now is on getting audiences, customers and participants back to public activities,” says Kush. “Back into programs and lessons, back into galleries, museums and other venues, back to festivals and community celebrations, and back into developing various cultural interests.”

After assessing options, SaskCulture was quick to ensure the stability and flexibility of funding available for cultural programming, develop a new grant — the Small Grant Accessibility Program, as well as, offer special initiatives designed to address changes needed by groups for post-COVID programming and operations.

In addition, SaskCulture and its partners shared the results with the Ministry of Parks, Culture and Sport, which resulted in discussions and support for a marketing campaign for Summer/Fall 2022 to help encourage people to re-engage with their favorite cultural activities. “The partners agreed to work with an external advertising agency to develop a campaign to remind people around the province of the benefits of in-person cultural experiences,” explains Kush. “We hope it will encourage them to re-commit to getting out and enjoying culture in their communities.”

The survey showed the lows, but also highlighted the resilience of the cultural community. Half of the respondents, 50%, said they felt positive or very positive about their situations at the time of the survey; however, 45% were still uncertain about what to expect for the upcoming year.

These past years have shown how incredibly important arts, culture and heritage are to the people of this province. As one survey respondent noted, “I believe society and people will need the use of arts as a mental health tool now more than ever.”

The Bouncing Back from COVID Survey and results can be found at in the Members Section.