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.

APAPNYC 2019 Building Audiences Artwork by Adam Kissick/APAP


What you’ll find here:

  • Best practices you can start using now

  • Small and Mid-Sized Presenters studies and reports

  • Case studies of success and failure in growing audiences

  • How you can engage more deeply with these resources

Small and Mid-Sized Presenters Resources

In September 2020, APAP released a new report, "Small and Mighty: A Study of Small and Midsized Presenting Organizations in the United States". The first national study of its kind, APAP and its partner Callahan Consultants for the Arts focused on Small and Mid-Sized Presenters (SAMPs), a segment of the performing arts ecosystem that has been largely overlooked and whose experiences have been largely underreported.

In June 2020, APAP asked the original respondents to provide feedback on how the COVID-19 pandemic was affecting them. The new data became the foundation of the COVID-19 Supplement to the initial report.

SAMP Study Executive Summary SAMP Study Full Report SAMP COVID-19 Supplement

This study is part of APAP's growing focus on SAMPs, and the purpose of this research was to provide a greater understanding of this segment in order to build greater support for SAMPs.

You can read the initial pilot study, Small and Mid-Sized Presenters in the United States: Stories and Perspectives here and the Inside Arts interview where the report's collaborators talk about the takeaways and next steps.

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.