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 year-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 year
  • 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 $15,000 each for the one-year fellowship program
  • 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 twice a year


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 year 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 meet Cullen Foundation’s existing eligibility criteria found here (


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


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
  • Applications are available May 1 and will be accepted through June 15 through Cullen’s online portal. Fellows will be selected by July 31 and checks sent to grantee organizations by September 1
  • Fellowship activities and the grant contract run from September 1 to August 31
  • The “cohort” of Fellows will maintain contact throughout the year and present together on their learnings and experiences to sector members and Cullen Foundation at the completion of program


Important Dates

  • Applications available - May 1
  • Applications due - June 15
  • Notification letters sent to new Fellows - August 1
  • Checks sent to grantee organizations – September 1
  • Fellow activities begin - September 1


Apply Online

  • The entire application will be online and opens May 1
  • Applicant organizations, which must be Cullen performing arts grantees from 2015 to present, may click here to login to their existing Foundant account
  • A code is necessary to access the Fellows application. Contact Cullen staff at [email protected] or (716) 800-4280 to retrieve the code.