In Chicago, a patchwork city of neighborhoods each with a distinct identity, arts organizations seek to define and articulate the communities they serve in order to specify their programming and more clearly evaluate outcomes. Community-engaged arts organizations in particular rely on a relationship with their target audience as a central part of their purpose. This study examines how these organizations are building and fostering healthy and effective relationships with the communities they serve. It will survey the existing discourse around “community” as a framework for organizations to understand their target audiences. The study will then seek to describe the anatomy of such relationships including how they are built, expressed, and evolve over time. Finally, the study will apply the framework of coordinated management of meaning (CMM), part of interpersonal communication theory, to understand the relationship between arts organizations and their communities. Specifically, CMM serves as a non-hierarchical, non-directional model that can be used to describe the relationship as a social reality that is collaboratively constructed by both the community and the organization. Using examples from current organizations in Chicago, this study will illustrate how adopting such a model leads to more effective community-engaged arts organizations.