Sustainability and Building Audiences

Quick Links: Scenario Planning | 9 Effective Practices for Building Arts Audiences | Research and Studies | Discussion Guides | Presentations | Case Studies | 5 Minutes to Shine | Small and Mid-Sized Presenters Resources

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.

APAPNYC 2019 Building Audiences Artwork by Adam Kissick/APAP


Navigating Uncertain Times: A Scenario Planning Toolkit for the Arts and Culture Sector

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues its course in 2020 and the national conversation on racial justice raises important questions about equity, arts organizations face a volatile ”new normal” with few certainties and many questions. A new resource from the Wallace Foundation and AEA Consulting, Navigating Uncertain Times: A Scenario Planning Toolkit for the Arts and Culture Sector, outlines the most likely scenarios for the next five years and how arts organizations can best prepare and succeed, no matter what the future may bring.

Created specifically for the arts sector, the toolkit presents four detailed scenarios, each based on a different outlook on the pandemic's course and how audiences will respond, as well as larger societal forces in the United States and around the world, such as creativity, technology, the economy, the environment and politics. Each scenario is accompanied by planning worksheets with prompts and questions to help guide organizations determine how they might be affected and how they would respond.

Overview Scenarios Worksheets

Reimagining the Arts webinar series

Strengthening community engagement, inclusion and organizational health are not new concepts for nonprofit arts leaders around the country. But the global COVID-19 pandemic and recent national reckoning with racial justice and equity can make these issues seem more urgent than ever. Additionally, many organizations are struggling to stay afloat financially, so that they will one day be able to open at full capacity again.

To help explore these and other pressing issues, The Wallace Foundation has convened a new arts conversation series, Reimagining the Future of the Arts. The five-part series brings together leading experts in the field to facilitate wide-ranging conversations, each grounded in research commissioned or supported by Wallace.

Replays of past conversations are catalogued above and shared along with other related resources. You can register for any and all of the upcoming sessions here. Each conversation will cover a new topic with different panelists. All conversations begin at 1 p.m. (EST), and everything is free of charge.

Register Now

9 Effective Practices for Building Arts Audiences

The Wallace Foundation has identified nine practices that successful audience-building efforts have had in common. Review the nine practices and read more about them in the downloadable report, The Road to Results: Effective Practices for Building Arts Audiences

9 Effective Practices Infographic

  1. Recognize When Change Is Needed

  2. Identify the Target Audience that Fits

  3. Determine What Kinds of Barriers Need to be Removed

  4. Take Out the Guesswork

  5. Think Through the Relationship

  6. Provide Multiple Ways In

  7. Align the Organization Around the Strategy

  8. Build In Learning

  9. Prepare for Success

Focusing on one of the nine effective practices, this guide Taking Out the Guesswork: A Guide to Using Research to Build Arts Audiences, seeks to help arts organizations get over the hurdles of research. It details how to carry out the research effectively – in both low-cost and more elaborate ways – and how to bring together an organizational team to manage the work. This separate infographic summarizes the guide’s key points.

These principles emerged from case studies of ten arts organizations that undertook audience-building projects as part of the Wallace Excellence Awards initiative. You can read more examples of successes and challenges from the work of museums, opera companies, a theater and other institutions.

More Resources

Research and Studies

Discussion Guides


Case Studies

Opportunities to Engage

5 Minutes to Shine: "Building Arts Audiences" Session

One of APAP|NYC’s most popular events, 5 Minutes to Shine (5MTS) showcases today’s most innovative engagement and audience-building work. 5MTS is an opportunity for artists, presenters, agents, and others to share their compelling story or idea in an exciting pecha kucha-format; one speaker will be selected to present their story at the annual APAP|NYC Awards Luncheon. Inspired by the Wallace Foundation’s Nine Effective Practices for Building Audiences in the Arts, this session highlights how to go from ideas to action.


Learn More

At APAP|NYC 2015, APAP and the Wallace Foundation hosted a professional development session on Welcoming New Audiences featuring participants from case studies. Listen to the audio recording to learn about their strategies, successes and setbacks.

Learn more about the vision behind the Building Arts Audience initiative, visit the Wallace Foundation website at

Inside Arts articles on Building Audiences

APAP has reported on the importance of building arts audiences, the tools and research needed to this and how the 5 Minutes to Shine competition brings forth new ideas.