For 15 years, The Wallace Foundation has supported audience-building efforts by arts organizations and commissioned research to understand what works, what doesn’t and why. This Wallace Arts Update summarizes key findings from that work and related studies. Drawing on previously published and new data, it concludes that building audiences is a top challenge for arts leaders, in part because of heightened competition for leisure time, national slippage in arts participation rates and a decline in arts education. It also discusses a variety of strategies systematically implemented by a number of arts organizations—initiatives tailored to address particular barriers, such as inconvenient scheduling or the perception of the art form as elitist, preventing the participation of potential audience members. These successful efforts shared nine practices, from identifying potential target audiences that makes sense for the organization to ensuring the whole staff backs the audience-building effort.

 Points of Interest

  • Successful audience-building efforts must be tightly aligned with an arts organization’s mission, resources and operations, as well as continuously studied and refined.
    Audience-building efforts must be aligned with an #arts group’s mission, resources & operations + continuously refined.
  • There is no one audience-building approach that works for all arts organizations, since patrons of different art forms have different objectives. Museum-goers, for example, often visit for educational reasons, for example, while those who attend plays often do so to socialize with family or friends.
    Patrons of different #art forms have different objectives, so no one audience-building approach works for all.