Entering Cultural Communities: Diversity and Change in the Nonprofit Arts

Entering Cultural Communities: Diversity and Change in the Nonprofit Arts

Entering Cultural Communities: Diversity and Change in the Nonprofit Arts

Entering Cultural Communities: Diversity and Change in the Nonprofit Arts


Arts organizations once sought patrons primarily from among the wealthy and well educated, but for many decades now they have revised their goals as they seek to broaden their audiences. Today, museums, orchestras, dance companies, theaters, and community cultural centers try to involve a variety of people in the arts. They strive to attract a more racially and ethnically diverse group of people, those from a broader range of economic backgrounds, new immigrants, families, and youth. The chapters in this book draw on interviews with leaders, staff, volunteers, and audience members from eighty-five nonprofit cultural organizations to explore how they are trying to increase participation and the extent to which they have been successful.


Diane Grams and Betty Farrell

It takes more than a building, good art, or an interesting program to attract people to the arts. in fact, the adage “if you build it they will come” might make a good storyline for a movie, but it doesn't describe how people are drawn to participate in the arts. It takes much more than the awesome sight of a majestic building, the titillation of an arts controversy, or the advertising for a blockbuster show for the arts to come alive to a wide variety of people and, in turn, to become part of their daily lives. When it happens, though, it can be magic. When a museum, symphony hall, theater, arts learning center, or a community cultural center comes alive with people engaging in creative pursuits, confronting new perspectives, talking, laughing, or just enjoying themselves, the arts realize their potential. of course, there is much work required behind the scenes in order to achieve this kind of experience. To create it involves a building project of a different sort—one that invites long-term and sustained participation in an array of cultural communities.

This book focuses on a number of arts leaders and cultural practitioners who have recognized that today's changing cultural environment presents not only challenges but also an important opportunity for the arts to contribute to the livelihood and liveliness of their local communities. These leaders recognize and value the commitment of their traditional audience and patrons, but they are also looking beyond them to embrace the needs, interests, and spending habits of a broader American public. Over the long term, their work has the potential to enhance the arts as a valuable and recognized public good by encouraging the involvement of a broader range of participants and developing more financially stable organizational structures.

LONG-TERM projects, not SHORT-TERM solutions

Building participation in the arts is a long-term project that requires vision about the changing cultural field and the possibilities that such change . . .

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