Cullen Fellows

The Cullen Fellows program reflects the foundation’s belief that development of talent is essential to strengthening individual professionals, organizations, and elevating WNY’s performing arts sector as a whole.

The 18 month-long, self-designed program provides substantive new learning opportunities for promising performing arts leaders to move from “success to significance” by providing them with the financial resources to enhance their skills through intentionally selected activities and a customized professional advancement plan.

Fellows will be selected on the basis of exceptional ability and potential, future promise for significant contributions to the WNY’s performing arts sector, and the strength of his/her application.


Fellowship Award

  • Cullen Foundation will award up to five fellowships per cohort/cycle
  • Each fellowship is awarded to an individual, no "team" nominations will be considered
  • Selected Fellows will create a cohort, sharing their learnings and experiences throughout the year and ideally beyond
  • Awards will be up to $10,000 each for the 18 month-long fellowship program
  • An essential part of the fellowship program is a leadership assessment, with the support from an executive coach. Cullen Foundation provides the consultant and funding for this program element. 
  • Eligible uses of funds cover a variety of areas addressing advancement in artistic, operational, technical and administrative areas and include: 
    • Tuition/fees related to relevant coursework; professional development and certification
    • Costs related to participation in structured mentoring activities; and/or for structured visits to recognized leaders/peer organizations in the U.S. (Note: justification for wider-range travel will be considered on a case-by-case basis)
    • Skill/credential/certification programs run by recognized leaders in a specific area the nominee intends to address through the fellowship
    • Conference participation in relevant content area(s) (artistic or managerial)
    • Participation in leadership and professional development programs run by recognized performing arts organizations, relevant membership organizations, or funders
    • Transportation, meals and lodging for destinations related to eligible activities including conferences, coursework, certification, professional development, structured mentoring, and visits to high-level peer organizations
  • The fellowship budget is an important part of the application and requires strong estimates for each expense category.  Any changes to the fellow’s development plan 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 fellowship-related expenses. Receipts must be saved and submitted to Cullen.


Organization Eligibility

  • The applicant organization must be a past Cullen grantee in the performing arts focus area from 2015 to present
  • The staff leader and board chair of the applicant organization may put forth one nominee each cycle for consideration of a fellowship (i.e. individuals cannot apply directly)
  • A fellowship grant may be in addition to another grant the applicant organization has, past or future, and will not affect or influence organization-level grants with Cullen
  • The applicant organization must be in good standing with Cullen Foundation, meaning it will be up to date on all reporting and other grant activities


Individual Eligibility

The program is intended to “build-the-bench” of leaders for WNY’s performing arts sector; therefore, applicants should be:

  • Mid-and-high-level career individuals leading technical, design, costume, program, marketing, development, financial and/or other department areas at “large” WNY-based performing arts organizations (revenues of over $1 million/year)
  • Artistic directors, managing directors, executive directors, or staff in technical, marketing, development, program, financial and other departments within “small” and “mid-sized” WNY-based performing organizations (revenues under $1 million/year)
  • Note that because Cullen does not fund “arts-in-education” requests, nominees whose main capacity is in your organization’s education department will not be given priority
  • Preference is given to paid staff of the applicant organization; however, Cullen will consider applications from an organization for an established “organization volunteer” should that individual serve in the capacity of a vital staff role; however, applications for Board members will not be considered
  • Nominees should be committed to staying at the applicant organization/grantee organization throughout the time of the fellowship and ideally well beyond
  • Nominees must be individuals; no "team" nominations will be considered


Cullen Fellows Past Activities 

View activities past Cullen Fellows participated in here

This list may be helpful to a nominee when building out his/her workplan in the application.


Application and Process

  • Each applicant organization will develop a fellowship “work plan” for its nominee that identifies goals, opportunities and gaps that will be affected through the nominee’s fellowship participation and present resources to address them.
  • The “cohort” of Fellows will maintain contact throughout the year and be open to sharing their learnings and experiences to sector members and Cullen Foundation at the completion of program.


2024 Cullen Fellows

  • Gretchen Didio- Office & Education Manager, Shakespeare in Delaware Park
  • Whiteney Dann- Development Manager, Buffalo String Works
  • Heather Benson- Arts & Engagement Manager, Kenan Center
  • Emma Schimminger- Production Manager/Technical Director, Alleyway Theatre
  • Sonny Baker- Public Programs Manager, Burchfield Penney Art Center


2022 Cullen Fellows

  • Matt Dunning- Executive Director, Nusantara Arts Inc. 
  • Kelly Copps- Artistic Director, Second Generation Theatre Company
  • Brian Brown- Associate Managing Director, Ujima Company
  • Sean Crawford- Development/Office Manager, Shakespeare in Delaware Park Inc.
  • Michael Riccio- Development Associate, Artpark & Company
  • Joshua Carter- Communications Manager, Buffalo String Works
  • Mary Loliger- Director of Marketing & PR, Irish Classical Theatre Company


2019 Cullen Fellows

  • Thembi Duncan - Director of Arts Engagement & Education, Shea’s Performing Arts Center
  • Gina Gandolfo - Managing/Marketing Director, Road Less Traveled Productions
  • Angela Goldberg - Managing Director, Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus
  • Chris J. Handley - Associate Artistic Director, Alleyway Theatre
  • Patrick O’Herron - Director of Marketing, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Maria Ta - Program Director, Ujima Company Inc.


Application Timeline

2024 Cohort Fellowship begins: January 1, 2024

2024 Cohort Fellowship ends: June 30, 2025


Apply Online

Check back in Spring/Summer 2025 for info on a potential new cycle for Cullen Fellows (tentative).


Apply Now