Engaging the Future

The New & Next Gen of Arts Lovers

Members of The Cleveland Orchestra perform at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Cleveland’s Broadway Slavic Village as part of their 2015 “At Home” residency. Photo by Roger Mastroianni
For decades, arts lovers have helped build Greater Cleveland into a respected and cherished arts destination. But are we building the next generation of Cleveland arts supporters? Engaging the Future helped turn outside-the-box ideas into reality to engage younger and more diverse arts audiences.

Did You Know?

Young people born after 1995 spend 10 hours a day in front of entertainment media.

The Next Art Lovers
Engaging the Future, a Cleveland Foundation program that ran from 2011 to 2013, helped local organizations better adapt to quickly changing demographics and technologies and competing entertainment opportunities. Program funding allowed participating local organizations the flexibility to pursue riskier, innovative strategies to become more relevant for more people.

Organizations that have participated in this work reflect the wide size and scope of arts and culture groups in Greater Cleveland, including:

The Cleveland Play House, for example, invested in technology that would give online viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the theater in a gaming format. DANCECleveland created a “Dance Advance” team of community ambassadors for the art form. MOCA hosted live outdoor art events for passersby, while The Cleveland Orchestra developed “At Home,” a series of neighborhood-based residencies to bring music directly to communities. This non-traditional thinking will help more Greater Clevelanders, now and in the future, uncover fantastic cultural programs and events.

Sec 3 Arts Pod 4 Dance Advance Team

The DANCECleveland “Dance Advance” team

Talk of the Town

This year, the book “Imagining Arts Organizations for New Audiences: Values and Valuing,” was co-commissioned by the Cleveland Foundation and the U.K.-based Paul Hamlyn Foundation. Author Annabel Jackson, an internationally renowned arts evaluator, further explored the Engaging the Future initiative through case studies from Cleveland and the U.K., including the Tate Gallery and Royal Shakespeare Company.


Sec 3 Arts Pod 4 Teatro credit Steve Wagner Photography_SEC-COVER

Teatro Publico de Cleveland’s performs of “A Recipe Para la Vida” in 2014, the world premiere of a story that wove ensemble members’ personal memories, ancestral stories and humorous legends into a celebration of the multiplicity of Latin American cultures, identities and traditions. Photos by Steve Wagner Photography

Produced by ArtsFwd—an initiative of EmcArts

Teatro Publico de Cleveland
Raymond Bobgan of the Cleveland Public Theatre had a bold idea: people coming from all different professions and backgrounds, most of whom had never been in a play before, to form a theater ensemble entirely composed of members of Cleveland’s Latino community. “Theater helps to develop a shared identity and purpose across cultures. It unifies people,” Bobgan said. “But we couldn’t make the idea a reality without some help.”

But then the Cleveland Foundation provided funds through its Engaging the Future initiative to nurture the bold ideas of organizations like Cleveland Public Theatre and help bring their ideas to life.

“Engaging the Future put a force behind us,” Bobgan said. “When the Cleveland Foundation comes behind something, there is funding, but there is also the momentum behind the idea that can’t be underestimated.”

Cleveland Public Theatre created a local, all-Latino ensemble—Teatro Publico de Cleveland—by reaching out to the community to talk about the possibilities. Word spread quickly. Seventy percent of the audience who attended the premiere sold-out performance, Cuando Cierras Your Eyes, had never been to the Cleveland Public Theatre before. Teatro Publico de Cleveland has matured into a thriving, 32-member ensemble with members hailing from Mexico, Uruguay, Guatemala, Peru and Colombia. Their shows, in both English and Spanish, sell out consistently. And, the Cleveland Public Theatre received a June 2015 grant from National New Play Network to co-develop a world-premiere play in Mexico City and Cleveland. Next steps for Cleveland Public Theatre: bringing other diverse ethnic communities into the fold.

Check out our blog to catch up with grantee partners in the arts and beyond.

How can arts organizations innovate to attract more diverse audiences?