hand-drawn, black and white illustration of a person in a suit and tie pouring a martini at a bar, while another person walks through an arched doorway. dashed lines trace that person's path through the space.
Amplifying access to the arts
with Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago believes in the life-changing, transformational, revelatory power of great art and opera. Lyric exists to provide a broad, deep, and relevant cultural service to the Chicago region and the nation, and to advance the development of the art form of opera.


Chicago, IL

Topic Area

Arts & Culture

Project Type

Programs & Services

Sometimes dismissed as expendable or even wasteful, the role of art is often overlooked in conversations about equity. We believe in the power of art to change society, and that access to art is a human right. Lyric Opera of Chicago, celebrating its 64th year in 2018, partnered with us to design an inclusive engagement strategy so more people–specifically, emerging leaders–could see themselves as audience members. Their team wanted to be part of the solution of creating more access to opera.

Our Process

To begin our process, we interviewed opera enthusiasts and facilitated two conversation sessions with young leaders: 1. People interested in opera, but have never attended, and 2. Individuals that have experienced the opera at least once.

We invited five emerging leaders and one guest each to experience the opera for the first time, giving them complimentary tickets, and asking them to document their day. They completed a Photo Voice assignment, capturing photos of their day and actions leading up to the performance and then sharing their feelings and reactions after it.

We then conducted an interactive workshop with over 25 Lyric staff members, where we shared research insights and collectively brainstormed ideas for engagement tactics based on what we learned.

From this work, we refined the ideas into nine concepts, including the one pictured below, and shared them with Lyric staff for feedback and further refinement. We then submitted the final concepts to Lyric to implement as part of their overall inclusive engagement strategy.

headshot of a light-skinned woman with short, black, straight hair, glasses on her head, wearing a black long-sleeved shirt and a black-and-white scarf knotted at her neck.

I am thrilled with how this was all pulled together. The final report keeps us accountable to the project and the tactics we agreed to. Already, patrons love some of the changes we’ve made!

Lisa Middleton Vice President, Marketing & Communications, Lyric Opera of Chicago

Client & Community Outcomes

We provided Lyric with a framework for how to identify, think about, and engage their audience groups. The framework highlights the path that individuals take to become subscribers and will allow Lyric to be more targeted in their communication and outreach efforts.

Our facilitative, inclusive process allowed us to hear from a range of Lyric staff members. Furthermore, the workshop convened staff members from many departments who wouldn’t otherwise have many opportunities to collaborate. We also solicited feedback on concepts from Lyric team members at multiple levels and across departments.