There many forms of systemic barriers that can prevent artists--and all people--from flourishing in their lives and in their work. Many of the trends outlined below are disturbing, and certainly this list of terms is not exhaustive. The MOEG intends to confront these trends by creating an inclusive space and a platform to represent diverse artists who live and work on the margins.


Discrimination and prejudice against people with disabilities.

The arts sector in Canada is taking steps to address access, but much work remains to be done to ensure inclusion of those who experience physical, intellectual, learning, and mental health disabilities. Many disability and deaf artists are stigmatized under assumptions they are not professional artists. These artists face financial barriers to receiving grants or artists fees due to restrictive policies governing government disability support payments.

Criminal Justice System

The system of law enforcement that is directly involved in apprehending, prosecuting, defending, sentencing, and punishing those who are suspected or convicted of criminal offences.

There is a disturbing trend of overrepresentation of Black and Indigenous populations incarcerated in Ontario jails. While African-Canadians make up three per cent of the general population, they account for 10 per cent of the federal prison population. The overrepresentation of the Black population in prison is more pronounced in Canada than it is in the United States. Indigenous Canadians account for 24.4 per cent of the federal prison population, and just 4.3 per cent of the general population. Black people in Ontario spend a longer time in jail awaiting trial than white people charged with the same offences. Less than than 1% of the general youth population suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, yet one in four youth in custody experience PTSD.


The process of receiving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university.

Children with high levels of arts engagement demonstrate better learning outcomes than their non arts engaged peers. However, despite living in one of the most diverse school districts in North America, students in Toronto’s arts-focused high-schools are overwhelmingly white, and come from high-income families. People who choose to pursue arts careers tend to come from higher-income backgrounds. An increasing number of artists are, by choice or circumstance, developing their practices outside of conventional institutions.



Activity in which one engages in the labour force.

Young people on the margins are too often routed into work environments that do nothing to increase their upward mobility, cultural contribution, nor civic engagement. Meaningful work that capitalizes off the inherent creative talents of artists, especially those on the margins, helps foster a society that is more just, more vibrant, and more equitable. Young workers and immigrants experience a lack of employment prospects. Youth and recent immigrants are disproportionately experience unemployment.

We know that there is a trend of exploitation in the creative labour force (i,e, “logo design competitions”, pay for play, and galleries absorbing the majority of proceeds from sales). Toronto’s youth face troubling long-term trends, with youth unemployment hovering around 15-20% for more than a decade. Unemployment remains a more likely prospect for immigrant workers than Canadian-born workers. Full time work at the current minimum wage puts a worker 20% under Ontario’s low-income measure. The estimated minimum wage needed to get by in Ontario is actually $18.52/hour.


Having no home or permanent place of residence.

Amid growing gentrification in Toronto, more and more artists--especially marginalized artists--are struggling to maintain residence in the city. Poverty--not delinquency--is the leading cause of youth homelessness. LGBTQ and Indigenous youth are disproportionately affected by homelessness: it has been estimated that approximately 25-40% of youth experiencing homelessness in Toronto identify as LGBTQ. In Toronto, Indigenous Peoples constitute around 15% of the city’s homeless even though they make up only around 0.5% of the total population. On any given night there are an estimated 2,000 people homeless in Toronto.


Intense dislike of or prejudice against homosexual people/Intense dislike of or prejudice against transsexual or transgender people.

LGBTQ communities have been, and continue to be, oppressed, and continue to be challenged in finding safe spaces--this includes exhibition and cultural spaces. In a survey of LGBTQ students across Canada, two-thirds felt unsafe at school, over half reported verbal harassment, over a quarter were physically harassed, nearly half had been sexually harassed, and those harassed were less likely than their non-LGBTQ counterparts to report to school staff. Young people are more likely to be the victim of a hate crime, and victims of hate crimes targeting sexual orientation are more likely to sustain an injury.    

Income Inequality

The extent to which income is distributed in an uneven manner among a population.

Income inequality is growing across Canada, and it is growing in Toronto at twice the national rate. Almost half of Torontonians are low-income residents. The richest 1% of Torontonians earn over 17% of all income earned in Toronto. Two Canadian billionaires own as much wealth as 11 million Canadians who own the least. 1.8% of the global population owns over 86% of the world’s wealth. As median incomes and income mobility stagnate, poor health outcomes among those with low incomes lead to lost productivity and higher healthcare costs, and income polarization creates a widening achievement gap in Toronto schools. It also leads to many social and economic problems including decreased concern between people from different background and higher rates of violence and mental illness. Of Canada’s top one-percent of income earners, 80% are white, and 90% are male. White artists in Canada on average earn more than Aboriginal artists and artists of Colour.


The ability to read and write.

A capacity that has no effect on a painter’s ability to paint, or a singer’s ability to sing. Toronto is blessed to be home to many masterful artists for whom English is a second--or foreign--language. 42% of Canadians have reading, writing, numeracy, and essential skills below the level considered necessary for the demands of modern life and work.

Mental Health Issues

Conditions involving changes to thinking, emotions, and behaviour.

Many artists are prone to experiencing mental health issues, but systems are rarely designed to capitalize off the unique perspectives associated with these conditions, nor are they designed to integrate individuals who experience their symptoms. Homeless youth experience mental health issues at a rate of up to 5 times higher than the national average for youth.  


The state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money.

Almost a quarter of Torontonians live in poverty, and almost half of Torontonians live in low-income neighbourhoods. Racialized, Indigenous, and Newcomer communities are disproportionately affected by poverty. One in four children in Toronto live in poverty. Almost 30% of Black households experience food insecurity, over 25% of Indigenous households experience food insecurity, and almost 25% of all renter households experience food insecurity. One in ten households in Toronto is food insecure. In 2007, a study showed that on average Canadian artists lost $556 annually from their studio practices.


A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities, and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.

Black, Indigenous, and Artists of Colour are consistently marginalized within the arts sector. A 2011 research project found that 88% of books reviewed that year in the New York times were written by white authors. Between 2013 - 2015, only 11% of solo exhibitions in major Canadian public arts institutions featured living artists of colour. Despite operating in the core of the most diverse city in world, the Art Gallery of Ontario did not feature a single solo exhibition from a living female artist of colour in that time period. Meanwhile, over 50% of Torontonians identify as a Person of Colour.


Prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination on the basis of sex, especially discrimination against women.

Female artists continue to be underrepresented. Female artists constitute approximately over 60% of living artists, yet they only accounted for 36% of solo exhibitions at major Canadian public arts institutions between 2013 - 2015. A 2012 analysis showed that only 25% of writers published in top literary magazines were women. For every $1/hr a male artist earns, a female artist earned 40 cents.