WEA Engagement Projects

Six years ago, building on two decades of work on expanding audiences for the arts, The Wallace Foundation and a group of partners embarked on a series of experiments in audience-building. Over the course of three years the Foundation awarded grants to 54 arts institutions in six cities, each of whom were judged to demonstrate a high standard of artistic quality and interesting ideas for trying out ways to reach new audiences or deepen relationships with current audiences. Those projects in audience-building, which were accompanied by grants to technical advisers to help measure effects, happened at a critical time in the arts — a time when there are signs of audiences’ growing appetite for deeper engagement.

These projects and their experiments are the inspiration for this week’s Lead or Follow ArtsJournal debate, experiences that we hope will add texture and insight to a discussion that is happening all over the country.

Below are the original descriptions for the 54 projects. Many of them have changed during implementation. We have asked representatives of these organizations to join this week’s conversation, explain how the projects evolved, and, most importantly, share any emerging lessons. On another page, you will be able to delve in depth into four of these projects through a set of four case studies developed by an independent research team. These are the first of a set of research studies designed to make the lessons generated by Wallace’s partners accessible to a broad audience.

Boston (2006)


Boston Lyric Opera

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Institute of Contemporary Art

Huntington Theatre

From the Top

Museum of Fine Arts
Boston Symphony

Chicago (2006)


Merit School of Music

Hyde Park Art Center

Music of the Baroque

Black Ensemble Theatre

Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance

Steppenwolf Theatre
Beverly Art Center Chicago Sinfonietta
Victory Gardens Theater

Philadelphia (2007)


Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia

Fleisher Art Memorial

Wilma Theater

Philadelphia Orchestra

Philadelphia Theatre Company

Arden Theatre Company
Opera Company of Philadelphia Clay Studio
Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe

Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts

San Francisco (2007)


World Arts West

San Francisco Opera

SF Jazz


San Francisco Girls Chorus

Yerba Buena Center
Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet Center for Asian American Media
Contemporary Jewish Museum

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

OCD/San Francisco

Minnesota (2007)


Mixed Blood Theatre
Minnesota Opera Northern Clay Center

Minnesota Orchestra
Ordway Center Contemporary Jewish Museum

Macphail Center for Music

St. Paul Chamber Orchestra

Seattle (2008)


Seattle Repertory Theatre

One Reel

Experience Music Project | Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame

Pacific Northwest Ballet


Seattle Art Museum
Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestras Seattle Opera
On the Boards

Speak Your Mind