“Pluralism offers an orientation that moves from minimizing the challenges [of] diversity…to realizing its opportunities… Pluralism is where diversity becomes capacity.”

David Maggs, “Art and the World After This”


WolfBrown is an arts research and planning consultancy that helps nonprofit organizations, funders, and public agencies accomplish their missions and meet the challenges of change.

Since its founding in 1983 as The Wolf Organization, WolfBrown has assisted hundreds of cultural organizations, agencies, and funders in the United States and abroad in their efforts to manage growth, reinvent and restructure themselves, plan for the future, and transform ideas into pilot projects and new programs. Our consultants have earned a reputation for successfully accomplishing complex, large-scale projects and are recognized as thought partners and creative problem solvers to arts leaders worldwide. Field learning is our passion. We frequently publish reports and papers that offer new insights, introduce new frameworks, and provoke new ways of thinking.

Our Ideas

Over the years WolfBrown has generated influential frameworks and analytical approaches that have significantly advanced both theory and practice.

  • We developed a Creative Capital Framework as part of the Boston Cultural Plan to bring a wide and diverse group of stakeholders together around a shared vision of six pillars of cultural vitality.
  • We defined a model for Five Modes of Arts Participation to better describe the differing modalities of public participation in the arts and to characterize shifting trends in participation. The model distinguishes modalities of participation based on the individual’s level of creative control.
  • Over a span of nearly 20 years, we have developed and refined a conceptual model and measurement approaches for Intrinsic Impact: how individuals are affected by arts programs aesthetically, emotionally, intellectually, and socially.
  • While financially accountability is well understood, WolfBrown has worked to build stronger frameworks for assessing the creative capacity of arts organizations.
  • To clarify understandings of an arts organization’s network of relationships in its community, we developed a framework for four typologies of stakeholders.
  • Our Public Value Audit assists organizations in understanding the value they represent, or might represent, to their stakeholders.
  • Using a qualitative research technique eliciting symbolic and metaphorical associations, WolfBrown developed a process for revealing a deep understanding of how audiences and visitors feel about an organization.

Our Collaborators

Our clients and collaborators are people and organizations in need of creative thought partnership, critical analysis, new ideas, or better information upon which to base important decisions.

  • Arts and cultural organizations engage WolfBrown to assess, facilitate, and provoke novel thinking about the future.
  • Foundation funders forge sustained relationships with WolfBrown to critically examine their investments in terms of equity, accessibility, and efficacy—and support the work of their grantees.
  • Local, state, and federal arts agencies draw on WolfBrown’s expertise in research and community engagement to support agency planning, community cultural planning, and grant program design and evaluation.
  • Consultants bring WolfBrown into partnerships around shared challenges that require a multiplicity of perspectives and skills.
  • Students and their teachers draw on WolfBrown reports and papers as curriculum resources.
  • Young researchers from diverse backgrounds look to WolfBrown for opportunities to learn and grow as professionals.

Commitment to Equity

Our approach to research and consulting is rooted in the conviction that we, as a team, must practice the principles that we espouse. In particular, we believe that equity is always the horizon we strive towards, one that informs our continual questioning of whose voices are heard and whose aren’t — both within our team and in the communities we study — and what systemic forces are leading to the outcomes we are seeing.

From across our offices, we strive to integrate equity in our daily work by:

  • Naming inequities when we see them, encouraging others to do so, and inviting others to point out what we cannot see;
  • Bringing forward studies that aim to expose biased structures in the arts sector and setting the stage for meaningful discussions about dismantling them;
  • Proposing studies and planning projects in ways that center equity;
  • Lowering the cost barriers to accessing our services for organizations working in historically marginalized communities;
  • Giving voice to youth, and investing in young researchers, so they can tell their own stories in a way that values their lived experience;
  • Diversifying our staff and bringing other researchers and consultants into our projects who offer perspectives that we can’t;
  • Fairly compensating those who contribute to our research and pushing back against exploitative research practices that stem from the asymmetrical power dynamics between grantees and funders, and between organizations and evaluators;
  • Making our published materials accessible in as many ways as possible;
  • Lifting up diverse voices and viewpoints in our published blogs and newsletters.

We can only be successful if this Commitment to Equity is manifest in our daily work, not just in our words on this page. Thus, we will continuously reexamine and improve our research and consulting practices in ways that foreground equity.

Why Is This Commitment to Equity Central to Our Work?

We live in a society that has long struggled and failed to live up to promises of equity. The arts are no exception. While holding tremendous promise to equalize and liberate, the arts also build on beliefs and practices that have:

  • Displaced people, claimed unceded lands, and ignored Indigenous and community sovereignty. This includes the occupied Indigenous lands on which our various offices lie across the US, as well as displacement of immigrant, poor, and BIPOC communities to build cultural facilities through practices such as eminent domain.
  • Excluded, delegitimized or wiped out the cultural practices of historically marginalized peoples, while building support structures designed to perpetuate this bias. For centuries these structures effectively silenced artists who were BIPOC, women, from other religious traditions, or otherwise not in the mainstream.
  • Drawn on the enslaved or underpaid labor to power institutions from which those same people are excluded. Many cultural facilities were built by enslaved African-Americans or immigrants in indentured servitude and to this day are supported by staff that are paid less than a living wage or interns who aren’t paid at all.
  • Collected and exhibited cultural artifacts appropriated from their original settings, exhibiting them in ways that strip away their traditional, spiritual, and cultural meanings, thereby tokenizing the creators and cultures from which they originate.
  • Represented peoples and traditions in trivializing or stereotypic ways. The arts have long accepted performances of cultures without input of that culture. That has taken the form of blackface and minstrelsy, brownface, yellowface, redface, and gross portrayals of disability, homosexuality, transgendered people, immigrants, poor people, and others on our stages.
  • Failed to educate and train committed youth and young adults who want to be creators and performers but lack access to opportunity; arts and culture institutions have long relied on educational training that only those with generational wealth can afford.
  • Perpetuated myriad biases within our institutions, among our audiences and visitors, and in the stories we do and do not tell.

We recognize the fact that as a firm and as individuals we have built on and benefitted from these problematic practices. We also recognize that despite oppression from institutions and our society at large, the people who have been excluded by these practices continue to be a part of our community and create art that contributes to the culture and well-being of us all.

We will continue to refine our commitment to equity and our understanding of the inequities that hold back our sector from achieving its full potential. If you have thoughts or would like to join in the conversation with us, please email us at info@wolfbrown.com.