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Wallace Foundation Grant

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PNB has been part of a case study by the Wallace Foundation on audience development -- the Foundation has published a report about the work thus far, and has said they'll continue the project for the next six years. Wallace is particularly interested in how to get younger audiences in the theaters -- they've been looking specifically at PNB's under 25 program and their Friday studio program (very family oriented)

Here's the press release (link to additional release below)

Pacific Northwest Ballet Selected for Wallace Foundation Audience-Building Initiative

-- $565,000 earmarked for research and development --

SEATTLE, WA, April 15, 2015 – Pacific Northwest Ballet has been selected for the New York-based Wallace Foundation’s Building Audiences for Sustainability effort – a new, six-year, $52-million initiative aimed at developing practical insights into how exemplary performing arts organizations can successfully expand their audiences, the foundation announced today.

Pacific Northwest Ballet’s grant of $565,000 for the first cycle of funding will be used to test the efficacy of creative involvement and cultural associations with new work, to generate a greater affinity among the millennial audience. PNB will build from a highly successfully program that has previously engaged teen and young adult audiences.

“We are elated to receive this funding from The Wallace Foundation in support of building audiences for sustainability,” said Ellen Walker, Executive Director of Pacific Northwest Ballet. “We made tremendous strides in attracting young audiences to PNB with our 2009 Wallace Excellence Award. Now, we have the rare opportunity to expand that work in a way that creates high levels of engagement for our audiences as well as a more stable future for PNB.”

PNB was one of 26 arts organizations from around the country that were selected to be a part of the Building Audiences for Sustainability initiative and noted by the foundation for their artistic excellence. Each organization will design and implement programs to attract new audiences while retaining current ones, measuring whether and how this contributes to their overall financial sustainability. In addition to dance, the organizations represent a spectrum of artistic disciplines, from opera companies to orchestras, theaters, and multidisciplinary arts institutions. The selected partners will receive financial and technical support from the foundation to develop, implement, analyze, and learn from their audience-building work. The evidence gathered from our work will be documented and analyzed by a Wallace-commissioned independent team of researchers, providing valuable insights, ideas, and information for the entire field.

Two other groups in Seattle were honored with Wallace Foundation grants in addition to PNB: Seattle Opera’s $360,000 Wallace grant will allow the company to test and develop strategies to increase attendance in the millennial and baby boomer generations. The company will experiment with various approaches to the way a production is conceptualized and designed, as well as the communications and engagement activities to support what’s happening on the stage. And the Seattle Symphony’s Wallace grant of $385,000 will be used to study the tastes, preferences and motivations of Seattle’s rapidly growing population of new urban cultural consumers. The Symphony will build on a number of its bold new concert series launched in recent years to develop new modes of interaction with its audience and explore pathways to growth among this important group of attenders.

“The arts are essential on both a personal level, providing us with experiences that open us to new perspectives, and on a community level, helping us to find common ground,” said Will Miller, president of The Wallace Foundation. “However, attracting and engaging new audiences is challenging for arts organizations because, even as the number of arts groups has grown, national rates of participation in the arts have declined, arts education has waned, and competition for ways to spend leisure time has increased. We are confident that the 26 organizations selected from a pool of more than 300 identified by leaders in the arts nationwide will provide new insights that will benefit the field at large, helping to bring the arts to a broader and more diverse group of people.”

PNB will receive grant support from Wallace to fund at least two “continuous learning cycles” of work. Over the course of four years, PNB will develop and implement a new audience-building program (first cycle), study the results, and then use the findings to implement a second cycle of programs. PNB will also receive funding for audience research to inform the work.

About Pacific Northwest Ballet

Pacific Northwest Ballet, one of the largest and most highly regarded ballet companies in the United States, was founded in 1972. In July 2005, Peter Boal became Artistic Director, succeeding Kent Stowell and Francia Russell, Founding Artistic Directors since 1977. The Company of 46 dancers presents more than 100 performances each year of full-length and mixed repertory ballets at Marion Oliver McCaw Hall and on tour. The Company has toured to Europe, Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Canada and throughout the United States, with celebrated appearances at Jacob’s Pillow, New York City, and Washington, DC.

Under the direction of Peter Boal, PNB has continued to expand and diversify its repertory to include works by Ulysses Dove, William Forsythe, Susan Marshall, Mark Morris, Justin Peck, Twyla Tharp, Christopher Wheeldon, and others.

Founded in 1974, Pacific Northwest Ballet School, under the direction of Francia Russell since 1977 and now under Mr. Boal's direction, is nationally recognized as setting the standard for ballet training and offers a complete professional curriculum to nearly 1,000 students. The School also provides comprehensive dance education to the greater Seattle area and reaches over 10,000 adults and children each year through DanceChance, Discover Dance and other outreach programs and activities.

About The Wallace Foundation

Based in New York City, The Wallace Foundation is an independent national philanthropy dedicated to fostering improvements in learning and enrichment for disadvantaged children and the vitality of the arts for everyone. It seeks to catalyze broad impact by supporting the development, testing, and sharing of new solutions and effective practices. At WallaceFoundation.org, the Foundation maintains an online library about what it has learned, including knowledge from its current efforts aimed at: strengthening education leadership to improve student achievement, helping selected cities make good afterschool programs available to more children, expanding arts learning opportunities for children and teens, providing high-quality summer learning programs to disadvantaged children and enriching and expanding the school day in ways that benefit students, and helping arts organizations build their audiences.

Press release about case study from first grant

Actual case study from first grant

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This is very good news and so necessary to build future audiences. I'm always depressed and distressed that the arts, and this certainly includes ballet, are seemingly irrelevant to so many people, old and young, but especially the young. So many distractions and not enough exposure to or value placed on the arts.

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The case study is written like a case study (no surprise there) but one of the more cheerful things I got out of it was that they didn't really approach audience building with the idea that they had to narrow the repertory to engage a younger audience. Boal has increased the number of contemporary works in the rep since he got here -- he's talked about it all along -- but the changes that were made to attract and accommodate a wider audience were more about how they were marketing what they were already doing. They assumed that those audiences would find the work engaging if they were invited in using language and tools that could reach them.

(I have to say that one of the ironical things I got from this was how useful the inexpensive ticket programs proved to be when marketing to young audiences, and that it was never the intention that those tickets actually cover the costs of those admissions. They're an investment in long-term audience building. This after NYCB closed the upper rings, basically cutting off their noses to spite their faces)

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