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Shiva Shafii,
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Press Release:


Press Release:

Wednesday, 15 April, 2015

$385,000 Focuses on New Urban Cultural Consumers 

The Seattle Symphony has been selected for the New York-based Wallace Foundation’s Building Audiences for Sustainability effort—a new, six-year, $52-million initiative aimed at developing practical insights into how exemplary performing arts organizations can successfully expand their audiences, the foundation announced today.

The Seattle Symphony plans four continuous learning cycles of work as part of this initiative. In the first cycle, the Wallace grant of $385,000 will be used to study the tastes, preferences and motivations of Seattle’s rapidly growing population of new urban cultural consumers. The Symphony will build on a number of its bold and innovative concert series to develop new modes of interaction with its audience and explore pathways to growth among this important group of attenders. For this project, urban cultural consumers are defined by evidence of interest and spending on cultural experiences, rather than age or income.

Seattle Symphony President & CEO Simon Woods said, “We’re very grateful to The Wallace Foundation for including our organization in this hugely important initiative to better understand and expand arts audiences. As urban populations rise quickly in thriving cities like Seattle, we’re very eager to learn more about the tastes and preferences of these communities and in turn share that knowledge with the broader arts and culture community.”

The Seattle Symphony is one of three leading Seattle arts organizations that have been selected for this initiative. Seattle Opera’s $356,983 Wallace grant will allow the company to test and develop strategies to increase attendance in the millennial and baby boomer generations. The company will experiment with various approaches to the way a production is conceptualized and designed, as well as the communications and engagement activities to support what’s happening on the stage. Pacific Northwest Ballet’s (PNB) grant of $565,000 will be used to test the efficacy of creative involvement and cultural associations with new work, to generate a greater affinity among the millennial audience. PNB will build from a highly successful program that has previously engaged teen and young adult audiences.

The Seattle Symphony, Seattle Opera and Pacific Northwest Ballet are among 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. The organizations represent a spectrum of artistic disciplines, from dance and opera companies to orchestras, theaters 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 this work will be documented and analyzed by a Wallace-commissioned independent team of researchers, providing valuable insights, ideas and information for the entire field.

“The arts are essential on both a personal level, providing us with experiences that open us to new perspectives, and on a community level, helping us to find common ground,” said Will Miller, president of The Wallace Foundation. “However, attracting and engaging new audiences is challenging for arts organizations because, even as the number of arts groups has grown, national rates of participation in the arts have declined, arts education has waned, and competition for ways to spend leisure time has increased. We are confident that the 26 organizations selected from a pool of more than 300 identified by leaders in the arts nationwide will provide new insights that will benefit the field at large, helping to bring the arts to a broader and more diverse group of people.”

The Seattle Symphony will receive grant support from Wallace to fund four continuous learning cycles of work. In the first cycle, the Seattle Symphony will receive $385,000 to develop and implement a new audience-building program, study the results, and then use the findings to implement subsequent cycles of programs. The Seattle Symphony’s grant includes funding for audience research to inform the work.

About the Seattle Symphony

Founded in 1903, the Seattle Symphony is one of America’s leading symphony orchestras and is internationally acclaimed for its innovative programming and extensive recording history. Under the leadership of Music Director Ludovic Morlot since September 2011, the Symphony is heard live from September through July by more than 300,000 people. It performs in one of the finest modern concert halls in the world — the acoustically superb Benaroya Hall — in downtown Seattle. Its extensive education and community-engagement programs reach over 100,000 children and adults each year. The Seattle Symphony has a deep commitment to new music, commissioning many works by living composers each season, including John Luther Adams’ recent Become Ocean, which won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Music and a 2015 Grammy for Best Contemporary Classical Composition. The orchestra has made more than 140 recordings and has received 18 Grammy nominations, two Emmy Awards and numerous other accolades. In 2014 the Symphony launched its in-house recording label, Seattle Symphony Media. 

About the Wallace Foundation

Based in New York City, The Wallace Foundation is an independent national philanthropy dedicated to fostering improvements in learning and enrichment for disadvantaged children and the vitality of the arts for everyone. It seeks to catalyze broad impact by supporting the development, testing, and sharing of new solutions and effective practices. At, the Foundation maintains an online library about what it has learned, including knowledge from its current efforts aimed at: strengthening education leadership to improve student achievement, helping selected cities make good afterschool programs available to more children, expanding arts learning opportunities for children and teens, providing high-quality summer learning programs to disadvantaged children and enriching and expanding the school day in ways that benefit students, and helping arts organizations build their audiences.

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