Innovation Lab for the Performing Arts

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

Current Program Participants

Eight organizations were 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 began their work in July 2014, and are 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.

Case Studies in Innovation and Adaptive Capacity

Two in-depth case studies on Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company and Denver Center Theatre Company (participants in the Innovation Lab for the Performing Arts) reflect on the productive messiness of adaptive change in practice.
Download the case studies.


Stories from the Innovation Lab for the Performing Arts

Click here to find a wide range of stories about the Innovation Lab for the Performing Arts.

In the video below, watch the story of Innovation Lab participant International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE). With the goal of redefining roles and division of labor in arts organizations, ICE created a new organizational structure in which ensemble members act as “Artist Partners” who lead and manage the organization. This new structure eliminates traditional silos between artistic and management functions, strengthens curatorial capacity, gives ensemble members more decision-making power, and supports creativity.