$100 million committed to Western New York arts and culture by the Wilson Foundation

As previously reported, the Wilson Foundation will create permanent operation funding streams for 13 WNY art and culture institutions.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — As our partners at Buffalo Business First previously reported, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation is committing to supporting the arts and culture community of Western New York. 

On Thursday, the foundation announced it is committing $100 million for WNY arts and culture economic drivers. as part of a $200 million commitment to the arts in Southeast Michigan and WNY.

Nearly $60 million over 10 years will be contributed to the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo to establish an endowment. The endowment will create a permanent operational funding stream for 13 arts and culture institutions in the area. The money will go to organizations that are significant economic drivers. 

The funding will also create an annual grant opportunity for additional arts and culture organization across the region. 

After the endowment is fully funded in 10 years, it will generate around $3.75 million in annual payout to permanently support nonprofit art and culture institutions. 

In the meantime, the Wilson Foundation will provide an additional $3.75 million annually over nine years, a total of $33.75 million, starting in 2022 while the endowment is being built. 

Additionally, a $5 million capital campaign gift is being awarded to the Buffalo AKG Art Museum (formerly, Albright-Knox Art Gallery) and The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester. 

“We are building upon years of substantial investment by critical public funding streams and philanthropic funders that have helped these institutions become the cultural treasures and economic drivers they are today,” said David Egner, president & CEO, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. 

“As a regionally focused foundation with a limited life, we saw a unique opportunity to make this significant contribution to impact the region’s quality of life and economy through jobs, tourism and more. We hope this annual operating support will help to strengthen the financial condition of these institutions allowing them to continue to develop creative, audience-centered initiatives that make them more inclusive, welcoming, and accessible places for all.”

The following 13 organizations will receive a total of $3 million including their annual grant allocation:

  • Buffalo AKG Art Museum ($500,000 annually)
  • Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park ($100,000 annually);
  • Buffalo History Museum ($150,000 annually)
  • Buffalo Museum of Science ($200,000 annually) 
  • Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra ($500,000 annually) 
  • Buffalo Zoo ($200,000 annually) 
  • Burchfield Penney Art Center ($100,000 annually) 
  • Explore & More: The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Children’s Museum ($200,000 annually) 
  • Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House ($100,000 annually) 
  • Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor and anchor institutions ($100,000 annually) 
  • National Comedy Center ($250,000 annually) 
  • Shea’s Performing Art Center ($100,000 annually) 
  • The Strong National Museum of Play ($500,000 annually)

Each of these organizations will have metrics and benchmarks they designed with the Community Foundation and national consultants to support their goals.

$500,000 will also be dedicated annually to support small and medium sized nonprofits across WNY and Monroe County.

The remaining $250,000 will support the campaign at the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo to manage and operate the endowment. 

“The pandemic laid bare the fragile operational health of the arts and culture sector within both of the Foundation’s regions of focus,” said Jim Boyle, vice president of programs & communications, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation. “The decision by the Foundation’s trustees to advance this broader and onetime strategic approach to support this critical sector of our economies should hopefully signal to many others the value that arts and cultural organizations bring to our communities and the importance of funding the day-to-day operations that contribute to their long-term sustainability.”

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