Pence Art Gallery

Like arts organizations across the nation, Pence Gallery Association has seen attendance shrinking at its receptions. With a new approach and a grant from our arts initiative, those numbers are turning around.

On a recent evening at Pence Art Gallery, an infinity mirror sat among the countless oil paintings lining the walls, part of a temporary installation for the gallery’s new program that aims to ensure our region’s creative community continues to thrive.

Funded through our Transforming the Creative Economy initiative, that new program – Art After Dark – offers a series of unusual collaborations and interactive experiences that invite the community’s younger, millennial audiences to develop lasting connections with art and local art spaces.

“There are countless articles about how millennials have stumped art galleries,” says Stephanie, the program’s coordinator, who is herself part of that generation. “What millennials want – what we think is a good way to spend an evening – is what drives Art After Dark. Every step of the way, I ask myself if I would want to go out to an event like this, if I would want to text my friends and say, ‘Hey, get dressed up! We’re going to Art After Dark!’”

Visitors at Art After Dark. Photo by Joshua Rios

“We have so many arts organizations in the capital area that are redefining what art is and who can make it, and – with the grant from the Foundation – it’s really exciting that Pence is part of that conversation,” says Natalie, Pence Gallery’s Executive Director

The effort to reach audiences that have eschewed more traditional gallery events is timely. Like arts organizations locally and around the country, Pence has seen its audiences and membership subscriptions decline in recent years. With the grant from our arts initiative, the Davis gallery aims to strengthen its engagement with the abundant millennial population in the college town and raise that generation’s attendance at receptions to 25 percent – up from just 10 percent in 2015.

Pence’s efforts reflect national trends. A recent study by the National Endowment for the Arts found that, while attendance at traditional arts events has dropped 29 percent since 2002, participation in alternative arts programming is growing.

By helping to foster arts-rich social programming in the capital area through grantmaking informed by success data, our Transforming the Creative Economy initiative helps local arts organizations advance beyond the conventions of traditional programming. Through it, we celebrate the vibrancy of our region’s creative community while ensuring it continues to flourish.