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Arts Regional Initiative

Harder+Company Community Research


To increase cultural participation and improve the financial sustainability, management, and governance capacities of leading arts organizations in California locales outside of major arts centers.

Initiative Description

The Arts Regional Initiative, conducted from 2006 to 2014, helped regional arts organizations respond to structural changes brought on by technological advances, demographic changes, and shifting consumer behaviors. The Initiative supported leading organizations that occupy an important role in communities outside of California’s largest metropolitan areas. These organizations are critical to providing quality and publicly accessible programming, fostering the careers of emerging artists, and contributing to community development. In fall 2009, Irvine launched a second phase of the Arts Regional Initiative that focused specifically on increasing cultural participation and improving financial sustainability among grantee organizations. The Initiative refinements were informed by prior evaluation results of the first cohort of grantees.


Investing in Cultural Participation and Financial Sustainability reports on the outcome of this Initiative. The evaluation, conducted by Harder+Company Community Research, generated findings that arts organizations and funders alike may find valuable. For example, those successful in diversifying their audiences did so through partnering with other community groups. And organizations had the greatest impact on cultural participation when they employed a combination of three key strategies: direct outreach, market research, and updated programming. In the best cases, grantees used Initiative resources to strike a more sustainable balance of approaches for achieving their mission, generating revenue, and increasing cultural participation.


The evaluation used a mixed method approach, combining quantitative and qualitative data. Surveys and interviews with executive directors and board presidents at multiple points in the grant period assessed progress toward grantee-specific outcomes and the internal and external factors affecting those outcomes. The evaluation drew on data in the California Cultural Data Project to assess grantee financial performance. Data on cultural participation was gathered through audience surveys administered by the grantees, with support from evaluators.