July 22, 2015 – LBJ School Professor and RGK Center Senior Fellow 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 LBJ School of Public Affairs and the College of Fine Arts. The study will be administered by the LBJ School through its RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service.
The six-year study will examine innovative efforts underway with 26 performing arts organizations—in dance, music, opera, theater and multi-disciplinary 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’ bottom line. 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 Dr. 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 has devoted her career in teaching and research to understanding cultural participation, nonprofit governance and philanthropic organizations. Prior to joining the University of Texas in 2008, Ostrower was a Senior Research Associate at the Urban Institute Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy. While there, Ostrower produced several reports including Nonprofit Governance in the United States and The Diversity of Cultural Participation (also funded by Wallace). She is also the author of Trustees of Culture and co-author of Race, Ethnicity and Participation in the Arts. Ostrower is 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.
“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 (NEH) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) 50 years ago this September. “
“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 Dr. 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.”
Ostrower, who is also a professor at the College of Fine Arts, will produce a series of public reports to be released throughout the course of the Building Audiences for Sustainability study.
“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 COFA Dean Douglas Dempster. “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.”
The Wallace Foundation has a long and rich history of driving initiatives that aim to increase access to the arts, a commitment that honors its co-founder Lila Acheson Wallace who famously said, “the arts belong to everyone.” The Building Audiences for Sustainability initiative grew out of the Wallace Excellence Awards (WEA) initiative, which concluded in 2014 and supported audience-building projects carried out by 54 arts organizations in six U.S. cities. While designing those projects, WEA grantees drew from a 2001 Wallace-commissioned RAND report, titled A New Framework for Building Participation in the Arts. Other efforts have included START, a five-year initiative to support 13 state arts funding agencies, and Community Partnerships for Cultural Participation, an initiative that sought to use community foundations as spearheads for change in arts participation.