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Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation announces $100 million commitment to sustain art and culture centers

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WBFO news file
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Burchfield Penney Art Center is one of 13 institutions that will receive an annual revenue stream under a new endowment announced by the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation

More than a dozen prominent Western New York art and cultural institutions will receive significant, steady revenue streams from the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, which is committing a total $100 million to help sustain those agencies.

In all, 13 agencies will receive an annual fund of anywhere from $100,000 to $500,000 annually. As part of its overall investment, the Foundation will contribute approximately $60 over the next ten years for establishment of an endowment. That endowment, to be overseen by the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, will set up the operational funding streams for the following agencies (the dollar amounts are annual):

Albright Knox Gundlach Art Museum, $500,000

Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, $500,000

Strong National Museum of Play, $500,000

National Comedy Center, $250,000

Buffalo Museum of Science, $200,000

Buffalo Zoo, $200,000

Explore & More: The Ralph C. Wilson Children’s Museum, $200,000

Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park, $100,000

Buffalo History Museum, $150,000

Burchfield Penney Art Center, $100,000

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Martin House, $100,000

Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor & anchor institutions, $100,000

Shea’s Performing Arts Center, $100,000

Terry Alford, executive director of the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor, says this investment is a “game changer” for an organization like his. The funding, he suggests, will help them acquire more personnel who, in turn, can work to continue the growth of the Corridor and its anchor entities into an attraction.

“It's an exclusive group of organizations that they selected for this great honor,” Alford said. “For us to be included in that, sort of speaks to not just the momentum, but to the vision that we're trying to instill, and speaks to the transformational change that we're trying to implement for the good of all the people or the citizens in the City of Buffalo.”

David Egner, president and chief executive officer of the Foundation, says they worked with a national consulting firm to measure agencies’ attendance and regional draw, economic impact, financial health, and budget sizes to make their funding decisions.

“No one wants to be without arts and culture, which is why these institutions are so critical,” he said. “They're economic engines in their own right. They have people that come in and buy a ticket, but then buy dinner and have gasoline, and buy hotel rooms, and they generate economic income. Perhaps more importantly, they are talent, attraction and retention machines.”

Egner adds that part of the Foundation’s investment includes the creation of an annual $500,000 fund to which small and medium art and cultural centers may apply for grants. Additionally, $250,000 of annual funding will be used to advance inclusion and access opportunities.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.