Innovation Forum Celebrates Work of New Pathways Participants

On April 24th, participants in the New Pathways | Houston program gathered at Houston’s Ensemble Theatre for the third and final Innovation Forum. The five organizations that have now completed the Coaching process shared the results of their “small experiments with radical intent,” while the three organizations that are currently taking part in Incubating Innovation shared their progress so far in exploring bold new directions in response to complex challenges.

Here is just a sampling of the great work these organizations have been up to!


Coaching Participants


Houston Chamber Choir

The Houston Chamber Choir tested new standards for audience engagement by creating opportunities for singers and patrons to break the boundary between artist and audience. For their “Tune-In” experiment (pictured above), they invited choir members to lead the audience in vocal warm-ups, a non-traditional interaction that made for a richer experience for all involved.


DanceSource Houston

Social connectivity served as the necessary foundation for DSH’s experimentation. With no set formal agenda, DSH activated a group of ambassadors to host a series of dinners in order to widen and strengthen their reach. Through these social gatherings, they learned about the power of personal invitation and the excitement that people not formally in their community have about dance.


River Oaks Chamber Orchestra (ROCO)

In multiple iterations, ROCO explored how fostering emotional connections might be a vehicle for understanding their identity as an organization. All three of ROCO’s experiments centered the special relationship between audiences and musicians, including an “Ambass-adore” activity in which board members and musicians asked audiences members to share about how they know ROCO, how ROCO makes them feel, and what role music plays in their lives.



Inprint entered into Coaching with the desire to deepen program diversity through partnerships. With a small budget and much effort, their team began to develop a partnership with Tintero Projects, a Latinx literary organization, which so far has resulted in the wide-reaching podcast series, Ink Well.  Inprint has continued to explore new approaches to partnership through their program Cool Brains! (pictured above), by collaborating with multiple community organizations that have ties to the topics of the books being presented.



Musiqa’s journey through Coaching focused on interrogating the traditional boundaries between art and audiences. This inquiry led them to design experiments that make the creative process visible, opening up new pathways for current and future audiences to engage with contemporary classical music. Their video series Questions + Artists invites viewers to relate their own creative process to Musiqa’s composers.


Incubating Innovation Participants

Fresh Arts

When Fresh Arts took over management of the Washington Avenue Arts District in 2017, it was clear that they needed to engage multiple stakeholders to truly mobilize the neighborhood around arts-related projects. Through Incubating Innovation they have articulated the complex challenge at stake as a need to create a collaborative inclusive community through arts, culture, and history. Watch this space to see their multiple prototypes in action ranging from tactical urbanism, to exploring affordability and displacement, to storytelling as a radical act of affirming history.

Writers in the Schools (WITS)

After a series of deep conversations with their EmcArts facilitator, the WITS Innovation Team designed a series of prototypes that will make space for deeper and more reciprocal relationships between their organization the young people of Houston and the performance poetry community. By developing both a WITS Youth collective and a WITS Poet collective they will be engaging in the hard work of cultivating truly inclusive spaces and letting go of long-held assumptions.


DiverseWorks entered into Incubating Innovation with the intention to adapt and support non-traditional, innovative artists’ projects that create new avenues for engagement in the arts and social issues among Houston communities. Over the next 5 months, they will be engaging in a radical listening and learning prototype to identify community partners and artists in areas of Houston with large immigrant and refugee populations.


We’re excited to be working alongside these organizations as they develop and refine their prototypes, and can’t wait to share with you what happens next!


Maura Cuffie is a new New Yorker committed to understanding and exploring change processes in various forms. Her work at EmcArts involves managing the place-based New Pathways programs, which build adaptive capacity in arts & culture organizations.