For its March 2015 issue, Alliance magazine, a London-based monthly about philanthropy and social investment worldwide, interviewed Wallace Foundation President Will Miller about the foundation’s recently unveiled Building Audiences for Sustainability initiative. Investments in the arts may not be the most direct philanthropic path to social change, says Miller, but the arts can help develop individuals’ cognitive abilities, create social bonds and provide expressions of communal meaning.
Participation in the arts in the U.S. has been declining, says Miller, and arts organizations are increasingly concerned about their financial health and their ability to continue creating and presenting great art. The Building Audiences initiative plans to fund selected performing arts organizations to experiment with ways to attract and retain new audiences in ways that contribute to their financial sustainability. The idea is to develop insights that can be shared with the arts field in general. Among the causes of the decline in arts participation in the U.S., Miller says, are technology changes, competition for leisure time and especially cuts in funding for arts education in schools.