April 15, 2015
The Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans (CAC) is pleased to announce that it has been chosen as one of 26 performing arts institutions from across the United States selected to take part in The Wallace Foundation’s Building Audiences for Sustainability effort—a new, six-year, $52-million initiative aimed at developing practical insights into how arts organizations can successfully expand their audiences. The grant recipients, all noted for artistic excellence, will design and implement programs to attract new audiences while retaining current ones, measuring whether and how this contributes to their overall financial health.
Representing a spectrum of organizations—from dance and opera companies to orchestras, theaters, and multidisciplinary arts institutions—the selected partners will receive financial and technical support from the foundation to develop, implement and learn from their audience-building work. The evidence gathered from these organizations will be documented and analyzed by an independent team of researchers, providing valuable insights, ideas and information for the entire field.
“The arts are essential on both a personal level, providing us with experiences that open us to new perspectives, and on a community level, helping us to find common ground. However, attracting and engaging new audiences is challenging for arts organizations because, even as the number of arts groups has grown, national rates of participation in the arts have declined, arts education has waned, and competition for ways to spend leisure time has increased. We are confident that the 26 organizations selected from a pool of more than 300 identified by leaders in the arts nationwide will provide new insights that will benefit the field at large, helping to bring the arts to a broader and more diverse group of people.”
                                                                            —Will Miller, President of The Wallace Foundation
The projects to be carried out by the arts organizations are designed to reach a variety of diverse audiences, including racial and ethnic groups, age-cohorts (primarily young people), and people working in specific sectors. Strategies include commissioning new art that would resonate with particular groups, involving target audience members in the creation and selection of works to be performed, creating events that allow audience members to gather and learn more about the art, and staging works in non-traditional venues that are more easily accessible to the target audience.
“The trustees, staff, and the entire family of CAC stakeholders are thrilled to join this prestigious group of colleagues—many of whom we have long admired—in this ground-breaking initiative.  As our city prepares for its tricentennial over the next several years, we are deeply gratified to be given the resources to learn innovative new ways to engage an even more diverse audience with the work of the extraordinary artists, working across disciplines, which we will present during the coming years.”
                                                                             —Neil A. Barclay, CAC Director and CEO
The participating arts organizations are from all major regions of the country, and have annual budgets ranging from $1.5 million to more than $20 million. They will receive grant support from Wallace to fund at least two “continuous learning cycles” of work. Over the course of four years, they will develop and implement a new audience-building program (first cycle), study the results, and then use the findings to implement a second cycle of programs. They will also receive funding for audience research to inform their work. Wallace will commission research to capture the arts organizations’ experiences and accomplishments for a series of public reports.
The final 26 arts organizations were selected on the basis of a number of factors: proposals that integrated high-quality artistic programing with innovative approaches to engaging desired audiences, the relevance of their proposed projects to the larger field, and the organizations’ internal capacity to participate in a multi-year initiative and report on results.
“Building audiences is one of the most pressing challenges facing arts leaders today, but many organizations lack the resources and information they need to generate new and innovative practices. Over the past 25 years, we have consistently supported initiatives and commissioned research to build a resource of replicable methods for audience building. The work of these 26 organizations will build on the knowledge we’ve already gained, adding to the resources that we share with the field.” 
                                               — Daniel Windham, The Wallace Foundation Director of Arts
Due to the strength and complexity of the 26 proposals selected, Wallace increased funding for the initiative; the foundation last fall envisioned a $40-million initiative with grants going to 25 arts organizations. After seeing the richness of the ideas in the proposals submitted, Wallace increased the number to 26 and overall funding to $52 million.
About The Wallace Foundation
Based in New York City, The Wallace Foundation is an independent national philanthropy dedicated to fostering improvements in learning and enrichment for disadvantaged children and the vitality of the arts for everyone. It seeks to catalyze broad impact by supporting the development, testing, and sharing of new solutions and effective practices. At www.wallacefoundation.org, the Foundation maintains an online library about what it has learned, including knowledge from its current efforts aimed at: strengthening education leadership to improve student achievement, helping selected cities make good afterschool programs available to more children, expanding arts learning opportunities for children and teens, providing high-quality  summer learning programs to disadvantaged children and enriching and expanding the school day in ways that benefit students, and helping arts organizations build their audiences.
Building Audiences for Sustainability
Building Audiences for Sustainability continues the foundation’s 25-year history of support for the arts, with a particular emphasis on building audiences. To ensure that the efforts of the selected arts organizations will inform and strengthen the audience-building efforts of the community of performing arts organizations nationwide, the foundation plans to commission an independent, $3.5-million study. It will assess whether the organizations made audience gains, whether these gains were sustained and how the gains contributed to the organization’s overall financial health. The study’s findings are expected to result in a series of public reports to be published over the course of the initiative, beginning in 2017.
In addition, Wallace has formed partnerships with seven service organizations in the arts to provide the field with findings from the initiative through their publications, presentations, newsletters and other communications. The organizations – American Alliance of Museums, Association of Performing Arts Presenters, Chamber Music America, Dance USA, League of American Orchestras, Opera America and Theatre Communications Group – have been actively tackling audience-building with their members. A partnership with the Association of Arts Administration Educators will help make this knowledge available for use in graduate and undergraduate programs that prepare future arts leaders.
For more information on Building Audiences for Sustainability or on other Wallace arts initiatives, please visit: www.wallacefoundation.org.
Participating Arts Organizations
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, New York; ASU Gammage, Tempe; Ballet Austin; Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; Cal Performances, Berkeley; Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans; Denver Center Theatre Company; Goodman Theatre, Chicago; La Jolla Playhouse; Los Angeles Philharmonic; Lyric Opera of Chicago; New York Philharmonic; Oakland East Bay Symphony; Opera Philadelphia; Opera Theatre of St. Louis; Pacific Northwest Ballet, Seattle; The Pasadena Playhouse; Portland Center Stage, Oregon; San Francisco Performances; Seattle Opera; Seattle Symphony Orchestra; Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Chicago; University Musical Society, Ann Arbor; Victory Gardens Theater, Chicago; Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Washington, D.C.; World Music/CRASHarts, Boston.
About the CAC
The Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) is a multi–disciplinary arts center dedicated to the presentation, production, and promotion of the art of our time.  Formed in 1976 by a passionate group of visual and performing artists when the movement to tear down the walls between visual and performing arts was active nationwide, the CAC expresses its mission by organizing world class curated exhibitions, performances, and public programs that educate and enlarge audiences for the arts while encouraging collaboration among diverse stakeholders composed of artists, institutions, communities, and supporters throughout the world.

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