Audience Engagement: Research and Resources

Today’s artists and presenters work harder than ever to build and maintain audiences for their performances, but new media technologies, shifting demographics, and limited funding present long-term challenges for the field. While there is no single, one-size-fits-all solution, through the help of its partnership with the Wallace Foundation, CMA seeks to present a range of strategies and tools to help arts organizations utilize their resources effectively and efficiently.

Explore the resources below to learn from experts in the field; peruse the Twitter chats for first-hand tips from your peers; and check out the research reports on the evolving preferences and demographics of today’s audiences.


New episodes will be released on here. Please stay tuned for future episodes and more information.

In part one of our two part podcast featuring Bob Harlow, we’ll listen to selections from his 2019 CMA Conference session, Audience Building on a Budget. Listen-in as he discusses the use of focus groups by the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston with conference attendees. To learn more about Bob Harlow visit

In part two of our podcast with Bob Harlow we’ll listen to selections from his 2019 CMA Conference session, Audience Building on a Budget. Listen-in as he addresses conference attendees and discusses the unique uses of focus groups by Orchestra X and the Minnesota Opera. To learn more about Bob Harlow visit

Listen as Donna Walker-Kuhne (President, Walker Communications Group) discusses practical, proven strategies for building audiences that better reflect the diversity of your local community. To learn more about Donna Walker-Kuhne and Walker International Communications Group Inc., visit

In this episode, we listen back to Olivia Marlowe-Giovetti's May 2018 First Tuesday session on Improving Marketing Outcomes with A/B Testing.


Research and Self-Reflection Help Strengthen Community Ties | By Bob Harlow

Learn how the Fleisher Art Memorial in Philadelphia was able to use research, self-reflection, and community engagement to make their organization a more inclusive space in new updates to the Foundation's 2015 Case Study.

The Road to Results: Effective Practices for Building Arts Audiences | By Bob Harlow

Based on case studies of 10 arts organizations that undertook audience-building projects as part of the Wallace Excellence Awards initiative, this guide pinpoints nine practices that successful efforts had in common—from identifying a target group that made sense for the organization to determining what barriers needed to be removed for that target to join the audience.

Taking Out the Guesswork: A Guide to Using Research to Build Arts Audiences | By Bob Harlow

Cultivating new audiences and strengthening bonds with current attendees is a top priority for most arts organizations. Yet even though audience research can help achieve those goals, many arts organizations shy away from it, often citing lack of money, time or skills to carry out the endeavor.

A Decade of Arts Engagement: Findings From the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts | The National Endowment for the Arts

This report synthesizes findings across several modes of arts participation (attending the visual and performing arts, reading literature, creating/performing art, using digital media to consume art, and learning within the arts) to show how many American adults--and from which backgrounds--have engaged in art throughout the decade of 2002 to 2012. Based on the NEA's Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA), conducted in partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau.

When Going Gets Tough: Barriers and Motivations Affecting Arts Attendance | The National Endowment for the Arts

This report examines demographic and socio-economic characteristics of adults who attended visual and performing arts activities in 2012, but unlike prior NEA research it offers in-depth perspectives on attitudes, motivations, and barriers concerning arts attendance. Based on a NEA module to the 2012 General Social Survey (GSS).

CMA’s Audience Engagement resources are presented with support from the Wallace Foundation. Visit the Wallace Foundation’s Knowledge Center for information on Building Audiences for the Arts.