The Innovation Lab for the Performing Arts was designed to serve as a catalyst for the journey to new pathways: to help arts organizations challenge core operating assumptions, engage in intense planning on a practical innovation project, create a sense of organization-wide investment in change, and test innovative strategies with grants that help organizations prototype new practices.

Originally launched in 2008 with a grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF), the Lab helps teams from eligible organizations design and prototype new ideas and to launch real-life projects that address major challenges facing the arts and culture sector today. Organizations are selected to participate in the Innovation Lab via a competitive Request-for-Proposals process. Delivered in four phases over a period of 16 months or more, the Innovation Lab provides a strong framework within which new strategies can be explored and prototyped before a full launch. 

To learn more about the Innovation Lab for the Performing Arts, please contact Liz Dreyer, National Programs Manager, at


We're thrilled to announce that eight new organizations have been selected to participate in two new cohorts of the Innovation Lab for the Performing Arts and the Innovation Lab for Arts Development AgenciesThese two rounds of the Innovation Lab are funded by a generous $1.58 million grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Download the Press Release.

The four grantees in Round 9 of the Innovation Lab for the Performing Arts are:

  • Center Stage
    How can we use our CS Digital programming initiative to provide theater in a way that expands the art form – and pushes its boundaries – to increase access to theater for everyone?
  • Intermedia Arts 
    How will we enroll a new physical space in creating artistic and structural models that have equity and inclusion at their core?
  • Pillsbury House + Theatre
    How can designing and using evaluation processes stimulate authentic community engagement, develop a distribution system for communications, and generate art?
  • The Public Theater
    How can we sustainably mirror artists’ creative processes in the way we produce their work?

These grantees will begin their work in July 2014, working with EmcArts’ expert facilitators through March 2016.

Proposals for these two recent rounds of the Innovation Lab came from across the country – from rural communities to large cities; from small collectives to some of the largest institutions in the country. Several strong themes across applicant proposals emerged:

  • Issues of social justice, equity and changing demographics
  • Creative placemaking, community engagement, and rethinking the use of physical space
  • The intertwined relationship between local institutions and civic ecosystems, and the role of arts organizations in fostering change
  • How organizational structures can reflect aspects of artistic process and creativity
  • The dilemma of traditional membership organizations and what it means for the field
  • How transitional moments can act as catalysts for larger adaptive change

Download the Grantee and Applicant Project Summaries.

Innovation Lab for the Performing Arts:
Case Studies in Innovation and Adaptive Capacity

Two in-depth case studies on Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company and Denver Center Theatre Company reflect on the productive messiness of adaptive change in practice.
Download the case studies.


Recent Grantees

Round 8

Northrop Performing Arts Center, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA), Redmoon Theater and The Theater Offensive (TTO) were selected to participate in Round 8 of the Innovation Lab for the Performing Arts.

Some of the questions these organizations considered as they entered the Lab included:

  • Northrop: How can we transform our revitalized facility into a hub of interdisciplinary creativity and innovation at the University of Minnesota that dynamically engages students, faculty, researchers, artists, and the greated community?
  • PICA: In considering our ongoing model of using temporary, pop-up spaces and alternative venues to site work in spaces appropriate to artists' needs, how can we challenge our assumptions about the value of this model? How can we preserve our practice's core values while reshaping it?
  • Redmoon: How can we cultivate a well-trained community of collaborators to build the next generation of artists, and invest in individuals in the long-term by scaffolding training from intern to apprentice, apprentice to collaborator, and from collaborator to peer artist?
  • TTO: What is the impact of our newly formed Pride Youth Theater Alliance (PYTA) -- a strategic alliance supporting and encouraging Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) youth theater in North America? How will this new model affect TTO's work locally as it takes on this new initiative on an international scale?

To learn more about Round 8, download the press release.

We believe it’s helpful for the field to learn a bit about the range of projects which were proposed. Download the project summaries of applicants to Round 8.


Round 7

Dancewave, Geva Theatre Center and the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) were selected to participate in Round 7 of the Innovation Lab for the Performing Arts.

Some of the questions these organizations considered as they entered the Lab included: 

  • Dancewave: How can we build an innovative, structured curriculum that values both high artistic development and supporting services capable of decreasing delinquent behaviors and increasing engagement in at-risk members?
  • Geva: How can we forge a new bond between patrons and artists through engagement, relationship building and artist-patron centered programming that will create both deeper appreciation of and greater support of the artist’s voice?
  • ICE: How can we put the artist at the center of not only artistic but operational, decisions?

To learn more about Round 7, download the press release.

There were 27 amazing applications to Round 7, each of which examined a variety of themes — training of new professionals, blending artistic and administrative work and new models of audience and community engagement were among them. Download the project summaries of the Round 7 applicants to learn more.