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APAP|365 > Knowledge > Knowledge Products > Building Audiences

Building​ Arts Audiences

APAP and The Wallace Foundation support arts organizations’ efforts to reach new audiences and deepen relationships with current audiences. Together, we are proud to share The Wallace Foundation's findings and resources on audience-building efforts with the performing arts field. 

5 Minutes to Shine: "Building Arts Audiences" Competition

The APAP|NYC “5 Minutes to Shine” (5MTS) competition was an opportunity to share a compelling story about an individual's or organization’s stellar idea aimed at audience development at APAP|NYC 2017. Stories were based upon one or more strategies identified in The Wallace Foundation publication The Road to Results: Effective Practices for Building Arts Audiences. Click here to learn more!

The Road to Results: E​ffective Practices for Building Arts Audiences​

Based on case studies of 10 arts organizations that undertook audience-building projects as part of the Wallace Excellence Awards initiative, this guide pinpoints nine practices that successful efforts had in common — from identifying a target group that made sense for the organization to determining what barriers needed to be removed for that target to join the audience. Filled with examples of successes and challenges from the work of museums, opera companies, a theater and other institutions, the report can serve as a guide to audience building for all arts groups. A separate infographic summarizes the nine practices on a single page. Report published: October 2014. Author: Bob Harlow. Publishing Organization: Bob Harlow Research and Consulting, LLC​.

Taking Out the Guesswork: A Guide to Using Research to Build Arts Audiences

This guide, based on the experiences of arts organizations that took part in a Wallace Foundation audience-building initiative, seeks to help arts organizations get over the hurdles. It describes three important uses of audience research: to learn about potential audiences; to develop more effective promotional materials; and to assess progress toward audience-building goals. It also details how to carry out the research effectively for each of those purposes – in both low-cost and more elaborate ways – and how to bring together an organizational team to manage the work. The guide illustrates its points with rich examples showing the ways in which the Wallace-supported arts organizations conducted research, and then used the information to shape audience efforts. A separate infographic summarizes the guide’s key points.

Case Stud​ies - more coming soon!

Staying Relevant In A Changing Neighborhood: How Fleisher Art Memorial Is Adapting To Shifting Community DemographicsThe Fleisher Art Memorial creates an initiative to bring residents of the surrounding ethnically diverse neighborhood to its on-site programs.

Opening New Doors: Hands-On Participation Brings A New Audience To The Clay StudioThe Clay Studio experimented with a series of events and workshops aimed at persuading their target audience to try out the organization.​

Getting Past “It’s Not For People Like Us”: Pacific Northwest Ballet Builds a Following with Teens and Young AdultsA Seattle-based ballet company garnered new interest in traditional and contemporary ballet among teens and adults under the age of 25.​

Extending Reach with Technology: Seattle Opera’s Multipronged Experiment to Deepen Relationships and Reach New Audiences​To engage audiences, the Seattle Opera used technology including simulcasts, interactive lobby displays and behind-the-scenes videos.

Someone Who Speaks Their Language: How a Nontraditional Partner Brought New Audiences to Minnesota Opera - Learn how an opera company found new audience members among women age 35 to 60.

More Than Just a Party: How the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Boosted Participation by Young Adults - Learn how the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Boosted Participation by Young Adults.​ View extra features for this case study.

Cultivating the Next Generation of Art Lovers: How Boston Lyric Opera Sought to Create Greater Opportunities for Families to Attend Opera - Learn how Boston Lyric Opera sought to create greater opportunities for families to attend opera. View extra features for this case study.

Building Deeper Relationships: How Steppenwolf Theatre Company Is Turning Single-Ticket Buyers Into Repeat Visitors - ​​Learn how the Steppenwolf Theatre Company is turning single-ticket buyers into repeat visitors.

Attracting an Elusive Audience: How the San Francisco Girls Chorus Is Breaking Down Stereotypes and Generating Interest Among Classical Music Patrons - Learn how the San Francisco Girls Chorus is breaking down stereotypes and generating interest among classical music patrons. View extra features​ for this case study.

​Additional Information

On April 15, 2015, The Wallace Foundation announced the 26 performing arts institutions awarded grants as part of the Foundation’s $52-million initiative, Building Audiences for Sustainability. The selected organizations are representatives of variety of disciplines across the country and will receive grant support from Wallace to fund at least two “continuous learning cycles” of work. Read the press release​ and learn more about the initiative on

APAP NYC 2015 hosted a professional development session, Welcoming New Audiences, surrounding how arts organizations develop a following with new audiences by building relationships with those audiences. Listen to the audio recording of this conversation to learn about three organizations' strategies, successes and setbacks including Bob Harlow-Bob Harlow Research and Consulting LLC (moderator), Ellen Walker-Pacific Northwest Ballet, Katherine Castille-Minnesota Opera, and Magda Martinez-Fleisher Art Memorial.

On October 1, 2014, The Wallace Foundation announced a six-year, $40-million arts initiative, Building Audiences for Sustainability, designed to support 25 performing arts organizations as they implement audience-engagement strategies over a period of 4 years. Each project will be driven by the organization's artistic vision and mission and focus on programs that attract new audiences while retaining existing ones. For more information,
read the full press release and watch a recording of the announcement including a panel discussion with Jane Chu, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.

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