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Understanding the practice of Community Engagement

What is Community Engagement?

   What is Arts Based Community Engagement? Graphic

ArtsEngageCanada is dedicated to helping performing arts presenters and artists to understand and create community engagement projects.

Community engagement projects cannot replace ticketed shows and other outreach activities, but they are a first, essential step towards a new, increasingly collaborative relationship between the presenter and their community.

The term community engagement is often used to cover a wide range of outreach, engagement, and audience development activities. ArtsEngageCanada believes that in the most meaningful community engagement projects, presenters build authentic relationships in their community first. With their position as a community hub, presenters become a catalyst that enables the community, with a professional artist, to use an arts process to address a social issue or bring community members together.


The Process

While each one is unique, a community engagement project typically follows a process that moves from connecting with the community, to empowering community members to create on their own:


Let your community know of your interest in engaging more broadly in the community and your desire to connect to those who are not likely to engage with your organization in the traditional manner.  


Together, have a dialogue about how the arts might be meaningful in creating connections and or embracing issues.  Fully understand what this other organization wants to achieve through arts engagement. Identify and connect together all the different players who would be required to meet this aspiration.  


Make a commitment to collaboratively undertake a project that will serve the identified constituent group and achieve the described aspirations. Undertake the project with shared leadership, decision making and participation. 


After the project (or after several projects together), this partner organization may be empowered to continue arts engagement projects without your direct involvement.  


Benefits of Community Engagement

Getting involved in community engagement helps enrich our communities and bring the arts into the mainstream of our community’s life

Community Engagement Scale

Community Engagement is a continuum. This chart is intended to help presenters to understand and track how their venue works with community.

Is it Audience Development or Community Engagement?

As you develop your community engagement practices, it is important to keep in mind the key differences between audience development & community engagement

The Power of Partnerships

Partnerships are the fuel for community engagement for arts organizations


North Yorkshire Youth Dance Connecting with local environments


Heritage Engagement


Crazy Smooth - Bboyizm

Do You Have a Story to Share?

We want to hear from you.

Submit your story about a successful community engagement project to the growing resource we are creating together.


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