This case study explores how Fleisher Art Memorial, a nonprofit art school dedicated to serving people of diverse economic, social and ethnic backgrounds in Southeast Philadelphia, responded to shifting demographics in its community. Interviews with residents and community leaders revealed that many—particularly newly arrived and economically disadvantaged people from Latin America, China and Southeast Asia—didn’t recognize Fleisher as a place where they would feel welcome attending classes or even visiting.

To address this problem, Fleisher set out to build its neighbors’ trust in and familiarity with the institution by increasing its presence in the community and working to create an inclusive environment at the school itself. Research shows that Fleisher has been making headway: One quarter of the students in on-site classes and workshops now come from Southeast Philadelphia, up from one-fifth, and teens and children from that area now constitute 36 percent of the enrollees in Fleisher’s on-site youth programs, up from 25 percent.

Lessons discussed in the report include the need to get staff members on board with efforts to change and equip them with the right skills; the importance of building relationships with other community organizations and institutions; and the power of data to help understand the task at hand, set goals and measure progress.

This publication is part of a set of case studies and reports looking at the efforts of arts organizations that received Wallace Excellence Awards to reach new audiences and deepen relationships with current ones. In three accompanying videos, Fleisher program director Magda Martinez and Chris Taylor, the president of The Clay Studio, another Philadelphia arts organization that received a Wallace Excellence Award, discuss their audience-building efforts.

 Points of Interest

  • After three years of building trust and familiarity in its own community, Fleisher Art Memorial increased the number of students in on-site classes and workshops who come from Southeast Philadelphia from one fifth to one quarter.
    @FleisherArt earns its neighbors' trust: 25% of students on site from SE Philly as of 2012, up from 20% in '09. #arts
  • Since Fleisher Art Memorial launched its relationship-building efforts, the percentage of teens and children from the surrounding neighborhoods in its on-site youth programs has risen from 25 percent to 36 percent.
    Relationship-building at work: @FleisherArt ups % of SE Philly youth in its on-site programs from 25% to 36%. #arts
  • Responding to the shifting demographics in its community meant Fleisher Art Memorial had to get the entire staff comfortable with change and provide them the skills and tools to work with new audiences in new ways.
    Lesson from @FleisherArt audience-building: For successful community engagement, get entire staff on board. #arts

 Bonus Features