Civic practice draws on the art form’s authentic creative assets to address public priorities and community needs. The leaders who undertake this work have a nuanced understanding of a community’s historical context and a deep respect for existing cultural norms. They are able to develop strong cross-sector partnerships focused on stewarding a process of relationship-building and co-creation.

Left: I, Too, Sing America, Michigan Opera Theatre and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Credit: Synthia Steiman. Right: 30 Days of Opera, Opera Memphis.
Civic practice is predicated on an ongoing process of learning, partnership and change. Efforts are more likely to be successful when companies partner with organizations that may be dissimilar and unfamiliar to the opera company. This work requires administrators, artists, board members, volunteers, funders and community members to expand their understanding of what it means for opera companies to be engaged cultural assets in their communities.

At the same time that civic practice can animate public spaces and place opera companies at the center of stronger community relationships, such work can also attract funders who would not ordinarily support the arts. The enhanced stature, visibility and trust of the opera company may also lead to ticket purchases by new audiences, especially from those who have felt intimidated or overlooked by opera companies in the past.

About the Civic Action Group
The Civic Action Group is a peer-learning cohort of company representatives examining how opera can increase its capacity to address community priorities through civic practice. With support from the National Endowment for the Arts, OPERA America convened opera leaders and advisors in the areas of creative placemaking and community-based arts to discuss their current approaches to community engagement and partnership and identify common challenges. Effective strategies and other civic practice resources are available on this page for dissemination with the opera field and beyond.

Contact Laura Lee Everett, chief programs officer, at or 212.796.8625.

Participate in Civic Practice Workshops
Supported by the National Endowment for the Arts through its Our Town program
Select regional companies will be invited to participate. All are welcome to attend.

Opera Memphis
September 11–12, 2019

Opera Omaha
November 1-2, 2019

In the news
"Dear Candidates: Here Is What Black People Want" by Alicia Garza

Explore these resources:
Introduction to Civic Practice (PDF)
This resource shares learning from the Civic Action Group meetings that took place at the National Opera Center from 2016–2018.

Arts + Social Impact Explorer by Americans for the the Arts

Aesthetic Perspectives: Attributes of Excellence in Arts for Change by Americans for the the Arts

Listen to the Civic Action Group Interview Series
  • Creating Belonging with Anh Le of Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (audio | transcript)
  • Community Context with Ned Canty of Opera Memphis (audio | transcript)
  • Collaborative Partnerships with Cayenne Harris of Lyric Opera of Chicago (audio | transcript)
  • Co-Creation with Alejandra Valarino Boyer of Lyric Opera of Chicago (audio | transcript)
  • Cultural Competence with Ian Rye and Rebecca Hass of Pacific Opera Victoria (audio | transcript)
  • Service Learning with Cam Bexten of Opera Omaha (transcript)
  • Community Partnerships with Wayne S. Brown and Andrea Scobie of Michigan Opera Theatre (transcript)
  • Socially Relevant Works with Reed Smith of Anchorage Opera (transcript)


The Opera Fund: Civic Practice Grants
This new grant program is intended to support OPERA America’s Professional Company Members’ efforts to learn more about civic priorities within their communities, develop relationships with leading arts and non-arts organizations and discover and deliver services that strengthen both communities and opera companies.

The 2018–2019 application cycle is now closed. For a list of grant recipients, click here. The next application cycle will open in fall 2020.

For more information about Civic Practice Grants, including grant guidelines and application worksheets, please visit
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