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New Stories, More Innovators in Arts Engagement

Over the past five years, more than 100 nonprofit arts organizations across California have taken bold steps to engage new and diverse populations using risk capital from the Irvine Foundation’s Exploring Engagement Fund.

As new demographics, behaviors, and preferences take shape in our state and across the country, finding new ways to meaningfully connect with people is of vital importance to the nonprofit arts field.

New case studies

Today we are pleased to offer “Experiments in Arts Engagement,” a set of case studies that provide real-world examples and practical tips to enrich lessons first identified in an October 2014 publication, “Emerging Lessons and Implications from the Exploring Engagement Fund.”

The case studies, developed by Harder+Company Community Research in partnership with consultant Diane Espaldon, feature nine arts organizations that vary by size, discipline, and geography. Their projects specifically focus on engaging participants from communities of color and low-income groups — two populations of particular interest to the Foundation because they are often underrepresented among nonprofit arts participants. Their experiences shed light on what it means to “invest time,” “build trust,” “partner well,” and practice other established lessons in arts engagement.

We thank these grantees for conducting productive experiments in arts engagement and sharing their results and reflections. These case studies can be valuable to all who care about increasing the relevance and sustainability of arts nonprofits, and bringing the benefits of arts and culture to more people.

Announcing the final round of Exploring Engagement Fund grantees

The lessons illustrated in these case studies draw on experiences across nearly 100 of the Exploring Engagement Fund grantees who completed their experiments as of December 2015. Collectively these grantees hosted thousands of events and involved hundreds of thousands of diverse participants. We would like to recognize all of these partners as we name the following organizations that joined their ranks over the past year (including those receiving final grants made in August 2016):


We’re excited to see how arts organizations — including yours — build on the experiences of Exploring Engagement Fund participants past and present to bring forward a bold new future. Stories and ideas welcome!