Stories from Cleveland: Engaging the Audiences of Tomorrow

The Cleveland Foundation has partnered with EmcArts through the Engaging the Future program to work with 12 Cleveland cultural institutions that range from the Museum of Contemporary Art to Karamu House as they generate innovative approaches for engaging younger and more diverse audiences.

Too often, ground-breaking strategies and advances remain isolated within individual organizations, unknown by the wider arts field. It is part of EmcArts’ vision to move the dialogue around innovation from the margins to the center of our discourse in the arts. This partnership provides a unique opportunity to share with you fresh thinking and courageous experimentation these 12 organizations are working on in order to address the challenge of change.

To explore their journeys so far, we’ve created 12 short audio postcards about their starting conditions and current priorities, featuring images from each group with audio narration. Stay tuned for updates on as the stories evolve.

We hope you’ll watch and share your reactions.  Are you facing the same challenges in your city?  What trends do you see emerging?  What new strategy might you try in your organization?

Watch all 12 audio postcards

The 12 organizations are:

Apollo’s Fire
To grow their audience, a world-class period instrument ensemble explores opportunities to expand their reach beyond Northeastern Ohio.

Beck Center for the Arts
To engage a younger demographic onstage and off, an 80-year old arts organization partners with a local musical theater college.

The Cleveland Orchestra
To engage today’s audiences on their own terns, a 90-year old orchestra introduces a diverse slate of new offerings that upend business as usual.

Cleveland Play House
To build on the momentum of their relocation to a new neighborhood, America’s first regional theater redefines engagement as every staffer’s role.

Cleveland Public Theatre
To ethnically and racially diversify their audiences, an adventurous theater rethinks the role of neighborhood residents in the creation of new work.

To cultivate the next generation of dance lovers, the US’s third oldest dance presenter questions their assumptions about single ticket buyers.

Great Lakes Theater
To engage more young arts participants, a classic theater develops new strategies to turn their venues into an inviting social space.

GroundWorks DanceTheater
To invite broader engagement with their work, an enterprising dance ensemble explores new channels for extending the artistic experience beyond the performance.

Karamu House
To reach untapped audiences, an African American cultural center considers new strategies to leverage their upcoming 100-year anniversary celebration.

Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland
To sustain audiences upon moving to a larger venue, a contemporary art museum investigates ways to motivate repeat visits by offering unexpected on-site experiences.

To cultivate new audiences for their contemporary art offerings, an experimental venue tests out playful new strategies to entice potential audiences.

Verb Ballets
To expand audience awareness and engagement, a contemporary dance company explores new approaches to personalizing their outreach.



Piama Habibullah is the Online Producer + Communications Manager at EmcArts, creating media content and increasing social media reach for EmcArts and, an online platform for arts leaders to learn and share stories about adaptive change and the power of effective innovation.