Diverse audiences start from a culture of diversity. That was the message delivered by Donna Walker-Kuhne, a national arts marketing and community engagement expert, to 100 Greater Cincinnati arts and culture leaders who attended an ArtsWave workshop on leveraging the arts to bridge cultural divides. 

The workshop is part of an ongoing series in support of ArtsWave's Blueprint for Collective Action, a 10-year strategic plan that outlines five key areas in which the arts can work toward building a more connected community and vibrant economy in Greater Cincinnati. Bridging cultural divides is one of the five Blueprint goals -- and a topic about which Walker-Kuhne has literally written the book. 

Engaging audiences that include people of all races and backgrounds really takes a lifelong commitment to diversity, Walker-Kuhne said. It takes leadership -- CEOs and board members -- who believe in the goal and can articulate exactly what they're aiming for. For her, she said, that was once a CEO who told her he wanted audiences that looked like a subway stop. 

The first step toward diversity often is conversation -- one that never ends.

"You start to talk about it," Walker-Kuhne said. "That's how you build the culture."

You start building relationships in the communities you want to engage. You devote people, time and money to the project. You create programming that reflects the audiences you want to engage. You listen to what new audiences are asking for and try to say yes to new ideas. You do not give up on bringing new faces to your organization or programs. 

"The answer is never, 'I can't find them.' The answer is, 'I will find them. I will do whatever it takes ....' That's the only answer," Walker-Kuhne said. 

Watch the full presentation here