Embracing a More Diverse Audience in Arts and Culture | npENGAGE

Embracing a More Diverse Audience in Arts and Culture

By on Mar 11, 2014


The shifting demographics of the population will have a great impact on the creative economy. If arts and cultural nonprofits fail to cultivate more diverse audiences, they risk decreased attendance and bankruptcy. Diversity is therefore a major issue, especially for the management and development of nonprofits.

In order to survive these changes and continue to support the community, arts and cultural nonprofits must become centers for cultural exchange and make three significant changes:

  • Diversify leadership
  • Eliminate barriers to participation
  • Become more involved in civic and cultural issues

These changes will increase attendance rates, deepen audience engagement, and encourage more individuals to donate to their efforts. Most importantly, these changes will ensure that arts and cultural organizations better serve their communities as they evolve in the future.

Diversify Leadership

Arts and cultural nonprofits cannot make decisions to benefit diverse populations when they are not in dialogue with individuals who can speak to the needs and expectations of different groups in the community. This means that board leaders and staff members must represent the community at large, and reinforces the need to survey community members for their opinions. It is only through these methods that organizations can determine how best to allocate resources in service of the community.

Eliminate Barriers to Participation

Arts and cultural nonprofits must work to eliminate barriers to participation in their communities. Such barriers include language, cost, transportation, and perception. Translations and multilingual educators eliminate language as a barrier to participation, and bring art and cultural understanding to a larger audience. By bringing your services to local neighborhoods, and eliminating the cost of admission and transportation, organizations can reach atypical participants. Arts and cultural organizations should aspire to engage all community members, regardless of their racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic backgrounds, and provide a platform for their recognition.

Get Involved in Civic and Cultural Issues

Arts and cultural nonprofits must become more visible in the community through increased involvement in civic and cultural issues. As a community volunteer, I attended a focus group for an arts and cultural nonprofit that centered on the goal: “To create systems and messages that allow our communities to expand their relationships with our organization.” One strategy for reaching this goal included, “becoming a leader in area civic and cultural issues that affect our city and the region by increasing our level of involvement and leadership.”

Public schools with poor performance face huge budget cuts to programming in arts and culture. It is my opinion that arts leaders and nonprofits must work to eliminate these cuts by helping schools make arts and cultural programming more relevant to all course curriculums. To facilitate this initiative, nonprofit leaders must actively recruit students, teachers, and administrators to visit their organizations and utilize their resources. With these efforts, children will make arts and cultural participation a habit, and continue this habit into their adult lives. Teachers will be able to inform arts and cultural nonprofits’ practices, and ensure that these organizations better serve their classrooms. Arts and cultural nonprofits must become better leaders and advocates for civic issues such as public education. It will improve their communities, increase future attendance, and create sustainable futures for their organizations.

It’s About Planning for Your Future..

Today, diversity is of chief importance in planning for the future. The monumental shift of the population could have devastating effects on attendance and funding if arts and cultural nonprofits fail to integrate multicultural ideas into their mission. As an arts enthusiast, I reflect deeply on the changing populace and the role of these nonprofits in the future.

I believe that nonprofits can prepare for this change and better serve their communities by increasing diversity amongst their staff, collecting data from the community, eliminating barriers to participation, and becoming more involved in civic and cultural issues.

A diverse staff and input from the community will keep organizations abreast on different perspectives and needs. Systems and plans to help community members overcome obstacles to participation will provide every citizen with an equal opportunity to benefit from an organization’s services, and greater involvement in civic and cultural issues will strengthen the influence and visibility of nonprofits in people’s lives. These changes will allow arts and cultural nonprofits to become safer places for all community members to experiment, share, and learn from one another.


Sara Woldt is an MBA candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Bolz Center for Arts Administration with interests in marketing and business development. Upon graduation, she hopes to secure a position at an institution committed to diversity, access and education.

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