PCS Blog

Portland Center Stage Selected for Wallace Foundation Grant

Posted by Lindsay Pfeifer | 15 April 2015


Portland Center Stage Among 26 Arts Organizations Selected for Wallace Foundation Audience-Building Initiative

Portland Center Stage has been selected for the New York-based Wallace Foundation’s Building Audiences for Sustainability effort – a new, four-year, $52-million initiative aimed at developing practical insights into how exemplary performing arts organizations can successfully expand their audiences, the foundation announced today. PCS will receive $770,000 in the first two years to deepen relationships with current audiences and attract greater numbers of 25-40 year-olds with newly commissioned plays, based on Northwest history and culture, along with related educational and social activities. “We are thrilled to be part of The Wallace Foundation’s new initiative,” said PCS Artistic Director Chris Coleman. “Not only because of the exciting new activities it will allow us to launch—especially our Northwest Stories commissioning program—but because of the structure of the initiative. The learning cohort we will join with our peer grantees means we will benefit not only from our own grant activities, but from the results of the entire group. It’s a very progressive way to address the challenges we all share, and we are extremely grateful to the Foundation.”
 The New York Times posted an article about the initiative today.
Portland Center Stage 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 theater, the organizations represent a spectrum of artistic disciplines, from dance and opera companies to orchestras 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 the work will be documented and analyzed by a Wallace-commissioned independent team of researchers, providing valuable insights, ideas, and information for the entire field.
Selected organizations were drawn from dance, music (including opera, orchestra, and small ensembles), theater and performing arts presenters. The selection criteria included: recognition for artistic excellence, a focus on the work of professional artists, an annual budget of about $1.5 million or more, a recent record of interesting efforts in audience-building with room to learn more, and the ability to engage in a multi-year initiative. In addition, we gave consideration to the overall portfolio of organizations to ensure that their audience-building projects would have relevant potential evidence and practical guidance to share with the field across a variety of disciplines, a range of U.S. communities and budget sizes.
Portland Center Stage will receive grant support from The Wallace Foundation to fund at least two “continuous learning cycles” of work over the four years of the grant. Over the course of first two years, PCS will receive $770,000 to 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 which will recieve additional funding through the initiative, amount to be determined. PCS will also receive funding for audience research to inform the work. Some of the funding will support a new commissioning program, Northwest Stories, created to bring stories about the Northwest and/or by Northwest writers to the stage; and a further investment in PlayMaker, a new web portal designed to increase audience interaction with PCS. Development of PlayMaker was launched through funding from Theatre Communications Group’s Audience (R)evolution Program, and the Wallace support will allow a more robust build out of this new product. PCS is working with Portland strategic design firm Watson Creative on PlayMaker.
The foundation, which announced the initiative last October with a livestreamed panel discussion on the benefits of bringing new approaches to engaging audiences, invited 87 arts organizations to submit audience-building proposals. the video recording of the October 2014 livestreamed announcement is available to view on the Wallace’s ThrivingArts.org web pages: http://www.wallacefoundation.org/knowledge-center/Building-Audiences-for-Sustainability/Pages/default.aspx

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