Collaborative Opportunities

Cullen Foundation’s Collaborative Opportunities empowers WNY’s performing arts sector members the flexibility to create unique partnerships and collaborations and submit such proposals once a year for consideration of funding.  Collaborative Opportunities provides sector members an opportunity to showcase and share their creative ideas with Erie County’s residents and visitors through new works, partnerships, and projects.  

This grant opportunity is currently on hold and will not run in 2023. Typically, submissions will be accepted once each year in alignment with Cullen’s Summer cycle which opens July 1 and follows our cycle schedule. Three main areas to explore in multi-organizational collaborations are:

  • Advancing artistic and/or organizational excellence, such as: 
    • Joint productions/programs 
    • Creation of new artistic works through collaborative models
    • Piloting shared “back-office” positions and functions 
    • Solutions to shared operational needs (ex: shared storage for sets, costumes, etc.)
    • Systems-building projects
  • Development of anchoring and mentoring programs to strengthen and advance small and mid-sized organizations by leveraging regional talent to assist them; may include:
    • Opportunities for “anchor institutions” to mentor and support the artistic development and audience engagement efforts of mid-sized and smaller performing arts organizations 
    • Shared/loaned venue use, including support of “in-residence” opportunities for local emerging organizations at host (lead or partner) facilities
  • Exploration of community/audience engagement among multiple sector members:
    • New options for shared marketing and audience engagement
    • Research and/or shared marketing initiatives that benefit multiple WNY performing arts organizations


2019 Collaborative Opportunities Grant Recipients

  • 710 Main St. Inc, MusicalFare Theatre, Road Less Traveled Productions, Irish Classical Theatre Company, Theatre of Youth - All For One Productions
  • Hallwalls Inc, The Historic Colored Musicians Club - Jazz Programming Collaboration
  • Buffalo String Works, Buffalo Chamber Players, Mary Kouyoumdjian - Composer in Residence
  • Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus, Buffalo Niagara Concert Band - Symphony No. 5 Return to Middle Earth
  • Burchfield Penney Art Center, Torn Space Theatre - Camp Everything



  • The cycle is competitive, and a limited number of Collaborative Opportunity grants will be awarded each year
  • Eligible uses of funds cover a variety of areas addressing advancement in artistic, operational, technical and administrative areas; previously incurred expenses will not be covered
  • The Project Budget is an important part of the application and requires strong estimates for each expense category.  Any significant changes to the Project Budget must be approved by Cullen Foundation before they are made
  • The applicant organization will serve as the grantee and will hold grant funds in a restricted account to be utilized for the sole purpose of approved/eligible collaborative project-related expenses


Organization Eligibility

  • For this grant process, a minimum of two (2) partners from WNY’s performing arts sector comprise a collaboration; applications must include the following components
    • Applicant Organization/lead organization which must be a past or present Cullen grantee (2015-present) 
    • A second WNY-based performing arts partner, while not required to be a past Cullen grantee must also be a performing arts organization with a primary focus and mission centered on community performances
    • Non-performing arts partner organizations may be collaborative partners but may not be the applicant organization/lead partner and may not be the second partner (i.e. must be in addition to 2+ WNY performing arts partners)
    • Any non-WNY based partners, performing arts organizations or otherwise, must be in addition to the minimum of two WNY performing arts sector partners
  • Applicant organization/lead organization should have an operating budget over $250,000
  • Applicant organization/lead organization signs contract and completes the follow up report(s) for the project
  • Partners CAN have an additional active grant with Cullen i.e. an open responsive grant and/or Fellowship award
  • The product of the collaboration must occur in WNY so as to directly benefit the residents of Erie County
  • Please note that Cullen Foundation does not fund the following types of requests: arts in education programs; programs that benefit an individual school; event sponsorships (galas, fundraising events, conferences, or group travel opportunities); and activities of organizations serving primarily their own membership


Application and Process

  • Two-stage application process (LOI and Application); 
  • The cycle is competitive, and a limited number of Collaborative Opportunity grants will be awarded each year
  • Application review process (team interview) required
  • The range for requests will be set by Cullen Foundation in May of each year
  • Depending on the size and nature, grants may require an outcome and impact evaluation component
  • Check back in early 2025 for updates on the next Collaborative Opportunities cycle