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Community Engagement Helps Attract New Audiences To Pittsburgh Cultural Institutions

David Bachman
Pittsburgh Opera Facebook

The Internet and television provide access to unbelievable amounts of art, all that can be experienced in the comfort of one’s living room, but is it stopping people from experiencing art at theaters and museums?

While marketing directors like City Theatre's Laura Greenawalt and Christian Cox of Pittsburgh Opera are aware of the challenges of getting folks to leave their home, both are constantly working to bring in new patrons.

“We try to show plays and musicals that tell stories in fresh ways that you’re not going to experience at home the same way you do when you come and you sit down with a group of people and you’re all in the room feeling the energy of some really enchanting or exciting performance,” said Greenawalt.  

Pittsburgh Opera focuses much of its marketing energy on subscription, Cox explained. In order to stay afloat, the Opera needs about 800 new subscribers a year. The unique challenge for the Pittsburgh Opera is satisfying older, classically inclined patrons while still drawing in and impressing those who are passionate about newer, more avant-garde works.

“Opera is a very broad art form,” said Cox.

Greenawalt said that the regular patrons of the City Theatre aren’t interested in seeing the classics--they are advocates for what’s new. Attendees want access to new plays and programs that they haven’t experienced.

For Pittsburgh Opera, the very detailed targeting of Facebook ads has given a great return on investment. Social media like Facebook and streaming platforms like YouTube help the Opera engage its audience and new fans.

Both groups have found great success using community engagement as a tool for drawing in new guests. Pittsburgh Opera worked with the Mattress Factory and the Carnegie Museum of Art when Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress opened. The set and costumes were designed by the artist David Hockney, whose work is on display at the CMoA.

The cast also worked in a pop-up performance at Kegs + Eggs + Opera, a brunch event at the Mattress Factory.

City Theatre patrons can get even closer to the art by attending Green Room Events after Friday night shows complete with free drinks and meet-and-greets with cast members.

As Pittsburgh’s art scene evolves, Greenawalt and Cox find community support is paramount to helping them continue their mission.

More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.

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