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Dr. Jane Chu

Video: Wallace Foundation on Audience Development

The Wallace Foundation announced a $40 million arts initiative, which will provide funding for approximately 25 arts organizations over six years to build and maintain audiences.

NEW YORK CITY: The Wallace Foundation announced a $40 million arts initiative this week, which will provide funding for approximately 25 arts organizations over six years to build and maintain audiences.

“The Wallace Foundation has been committed to the arts since its inception, reflecting the belief of our co-founder Lila Acheson Wallace that ‘the arts belong to everyone,’” said president of the foundation Will Miller in a statement. “We see helping arts organizations find ways to thrive, not simply survive, as an important part of our mission. This new effort will not only support the plans of about 25 great arts organizations to expand and diversify their audiences, it will also provide new insights and knowledge that we hope will be useful to the entire field.”

In tandem with the program, called Building Audiences for Sustainability, the foundation hosted a panel featuring chairman of the NEA Dr. Jane Chu, Alvin Ailey artistic director Robert Battle, Signature Theatre artistic director James Houghton, and founding artistic director of Signature Theatre and Seattle Opera executive director Kelly Tweeddale. Novelist and “Studio 360″ host Kurt Andersen moderated the conversation at WNYC’s Green Space on Wednesday.

“The arts are an essential part of our society, and we need to find ways to work together to bring in new and younger audiences so that we can all experience their transformative power,” Chu said in a statement.

In September, the NEA released its Survey of Public Participation in the Arts for 2012, which showed a decline in audience attendance in theatres, museums and classical concerts. Theatre had the steepest drop—8.3 percent of adults attended a play in 2012 versus 9.4 percent in 2008.

The Wallace Foundation is the not the only organization that is focusing on audience engagement. Theatre Communications Group, American Theatre‘s publisher, is also devoted to building audiences via its Audience (R)Evolution program, which aims to support successful audience engagement models across the country. The program is funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Watch the Wallace Foundation’s panel below and join the conversation on Twitter @TCG and @WallaceFdn.

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