July Topic: Making Art With (Not For) Audiences

How are organizations creating participatory artistic programming through collaborative processes with their audiences?

The Columbus Museum of Art is one of many arts organizations experimenting with collaborative approaches to participatory art experiences, such as through their Game Show event. Image: Columbus Museum of Art.
The Columbus Museum of Art’s Center for Creativity is one example of an initiative that’s dedicated to collaborative approaches to participatory art experiences. Image: Columbus Museum of Art.

This post is the fifth in a monthly series of investigations into the practices, processes, and behaviors that organizations undertake in order to stay continuously adaptive. Learn more about this series.

We’re continuing with our new editorial direction, in which we’re deeply exploring our 2014 Research QuestionHow do organizations stay continuously adaptive?

In July, we’re focusing on organizations that are collaborating with their audiences.

How do organizations create artistic programming with (not for) audiences?

We’re taking a closer look at organizations that are inviting the public to step into the role of creator alongside professional artists and/or organizations.

We’ll be exploring what this kind of programming requires in terms of balancing internal and external voices, creating authentic exchange, and embracing experimentation.

From engaging amateurs to putting the audience experience at the center of the artistic process, this kind of innovative programming requires a business-unusual approach.

Why is audience-driven, collaborative artistic programming a critical component of staying adaptive? I think it’s because expectations of what constitutes an artistic experience are changing. According to the NEA, fewer adults are engaging with the arts through “traditional” organizations. And with the rise of digital technology, more people have access to online tools that allow them to be a creative “maker.”

So, this month, we’ll be looking at what it takes for organizations to navigate the productive messiness of co-creating with the public and why it’s so important for the future of individual organizations and the field at large.

Stories from the field

We’ve been covering stories of participatory programming since ArtsFwd launched in 2011, so we’ve got a huge archive that we were excited to dig through. Here’s a few of our favorites:

We’ve also published a few popular editorials on co-creation and participatory art-making over the years. Here’s a few we think are still particularly resonant:

Stay tuned for a few more stories later this month!


Help us grow our collection of stories

This month, we’d love your help gathering more stories about arts organizations who are leading collaborative creative processes with their audiences. We invite you to share examples of organizations who are pursuing initiatives that deeply involve their constituents in the artistic process.


Karina Mangu-Ward is the former Director of Strategic Initiatives at EmcArts.