The American non-profit arts sector is faced with challenges including shifting audience demographics, competition for patrons due to evolving new media and entertainment technologies, changes in donors, and the discontinuation of federal and state funding sources. Savvy arts organizations are rebooting for long-term sustainability and relevancy to their communities, while some organizations adhere to unchanged practices and modes of operation. Amidst the 21st century digital landscape, arts engagement that yields personal and community impact and sustainability for the future is indeed attainable. Characteristics of participatory culture and democratization rooted in emerging digital entertainment and social media communications technology, coupled with the power of the millennial generation, the first generation with access to digital technologies since birth, are two forces that can be non-profit arts organizations' biggest resources and are inherently a part of the arts. Using a mixed method approach, this project examines discourse surrounding arts engagement, focusing on the millennial generation, social media as a catalyst for potent arts participation, and Central Florida as a region demonstrating significant innovations and opportunities for growth in the arts. A survey was completed by Central Florida millennials, and with permission from Americans for the Arts, select questions replicated their 2016 National Arts Engagement survey, situating Central Florida alongside National data. Qualitatively, interviews were conducted with six executive directors of Central Florida non-profit arts organizations. Grounded theory practices yielded a synthesis of perspectives and strategic action plan for arts organizations to consider. Resulting recommendations for organizations seeking to further arts engagement with millennials via social media include: incorporating transmedia storytelling elements, considering how the arts convene and create around causes, programming with consideration of the life cycles and interests of millennials, considering diversity and cultural equity in the arts, and creating experiences that define engagement in the digital and physical worlds.


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Graduation Date





Applen, JD


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Arts and Humanities

Degree Program

Texts and Technology









Release Date

May 2019

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)

Restricted to the UCF community until May 2019; it will then be open access.