AUSTIN, Texas — University of Texas at Austin Professor Francie Ostrower is the recipient of a $3.5 million grant from The Wallace Foundation to study how performing arts organizations can develop approaches to attracting new audiences with the aim of generating useful lessons for arts organizations across the nation. Ostrower, who was selected through a competitive process, holds a joint appointment in the College of Fine Arts and the LBJ School of Public Affairs.
The six-year study will examine efforts underway with 26 performing arts organizations — in dance, music, opera, theater and multidisciplinary performing arts — to implement strategies for engaging and sustaining new audiences while retaining existing ones. The study will also seek to understand whether and how those efforts have added to the organizations’ earnings. Both the study and the audience-building projects are part of The Wallace Foundation’s Building Audiences for Sustainability initiative launched in October 2014.
“Expanding audience engagement is one of the most important issues facing performing arts organizations today,” said Ostrower. “The Wallace Foundation has a history of commissioning and funding research to enhance our knowledge of practices to broaden, deepen and diversify engagement with arts institutions. It is an honor to be the recipient of this grant and contribute to this important initiative.”
“This independent research study will assess whether the organizations made audience gains, whether these gains were sustained and how the gains contributed to the organization’s overall financial health,” said Rachel Hare Bork, research and evaluation officer at The Wallace Foundation. “We are honored to have Dr. Ostrower join the initiative and help us answer questions of such importance to the field.”
Ostrower, a prolific author, has devoted her career in teaching and research to understanding cultural participation, nonprofit governance and philanthropic organizations. She is a board member and past president of the Association for Research on Nonprofit and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) and has served on the Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly editorial board, the Aspen Institute’s Community Foundation Initiative advisory committee, the National Endowment for the Arts 2012 SPPA Working Group, and as vice president for publications of ARNOVA.
The study will be administered by the LBJ School of Public Affairs through its RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service.
“This prestigious award is a testament to Professor Ostrower’s commitment to research on the interplay of performing arts and audience engagement,” said LBJ School Dean Robert Hutchings. “With this support from The Wallace Foundation, Dr. Ostrower can build upon her work in measuring and interpreting how the arts intersect with economics in the 21st century. The university, scholars and arts organizations everywhere will benefit from Dr. Ostrower’s contributions in this ground-breaking and comprehensive study, which holds special significance for the school whose namesake signed legislation creating the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts 50 years ago this September.”
“Congratulations to Professor Ostrower for leading the research on one of the more important nonprofit arts grant initiatives in the U.S., as well as having the distinction of being awarded the largest sponsored research grant ever attracted by a faculty member in the College of Fine Arts at the university,” said Douglas Dempster, dean of the College of Fine Arts. “Dr. Ostrower is among the country’s leading scholars on nonprofit arts organizations and a natural as principal investigator for The Wallace Foundation grant program. She is setting a new high bar for research among our faculty and is another compelling example of a university-based researcher benefiting society at large.”
Ostrower, who is also a senior fellow in the LBJ School’s RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service, will produce a series of public reports to be released throughout the course of the Building Audiences for Sustainability study.
“My gratitude goes out to The Wallace Foundation for providing Dr. Ostrower and the RGK Center with this incredible opportunity to drive engagement by diverse audiences in the arts,” said RGK Center Director David Springer. “Our team looks forward to supporting Dr. Ostrower as she puts her expertise to work identifying and amplifying those organizations offering innovative solutions in this area.”