Following more than two years of extensive planning and preparation, CEPA Gallery, Just Buffalo Literary Center, and Big Orbit Gallery are proud to announce receipt of a $150,000 implementation grant from the John R. Oishei Foundation to execute the cultural community’s first true administrative collaboration.  The goal of this partnership is to fundamentally improve each organization’s bottom line with a series of strategic revenue enhancement and cost saving initiatives.
"The Foundation has long encouraged the kind of shared administration and operations that these three organizations have undertaken," noted Thomas E. Baker, President of the John R. Oishei Foundation. "The approach they've designed allows them to maintain their individual organizational identities while at the same time reaping much of the benefit of merger. We're watching this effort closely, and expect that it could become a model for many other non-profit organizations, both inside and outside of the arts."
Throughout the project, organizational leaders will gain critical business and development skills that will allow them to build and maintain stable revenue streams and reduce dependency on government support. Maureen Millane Rusk, MBA, Associate Dean of External Business Programs and a team of professionals from Canisius College will provide training, oversight, and evaluation throughout.  Participating experts include Alan Weinstein, Ph.D., Harvey Pines, Ph.D., Judy Larkin, Ph.D., Neil Melbrod, MBA and CFRE, and Maureen McMahon, MLS.  Kathleen Kearnan will serve as a shared grant writer for the three organizations.
“This initiative is so exciting because it gives us the chance to use the creativity we bring to our programs every day to craft a new organizational model for the future,” said Laurie Dean Torrell, Just Buffalo Literary Center’s Executive Director. After two years of planning, we couldn't be more excited about the promise and possibilities of aligning our three organizations to best navigate the challenges we face.  We are deeply grateful for the visionary support that enables us to move forward with this unique administrative collaboration.”
Previous funding from the John R. Oishei Foundation, allowed the three organizations to complete a comprehensive five-month planning initiative that resulted in the development of a strategic work-plan.  With baseline statistics, measurable goals, and performance metrics defined, the organizations are prepared to embark upon this collaborative venture and are confident in its ability to succeed. 
Lawrence Brose, Executive Director of CEPA Gallery adds, “This type of administrative collaboration in the arts with such concrete and measurable results has never been done anywhere in the United States.  We are at the forefront of new thinking in the arts and it is brilliant that the Oishei Foundation has recognized this.  They are providing us with the necessary resources to move forward and to begin implementation.” 
The project has been structured as a three-year pilot. It begins with a focus on communication and infrastructure development and proceeds from shared training and fundraising to joint marketing and programmatic cooperation. Beginning with a focus on capacity building, staff and Board training, and organizational development, each group will gain the necessary skills to strengthen their core operations and ability to increase private support and earned revenue. 
“By enabling this collaboration, the Oishei Foundation has insured Big Orbit’s future, allowing it to grow from a regional gallery to a regional gallery with a national reputation,” notes Sean Donaher, Big Orbit Gallery’s Executive Director. This partnership will bring increased attention to Western New York and further prominence to its incredible cultural wealth.”
Embarking upon this initiative as Erie County eliminates cultural funding for small and mid-sized organizations provides CEPA, Just Buffalo, and Big Orbit with confidence in their ability to move forward with reduced operating support.  At its most basic level, this initiative will improve each organization’s bottom line with increased earned and contributed income and reduced dependency on government support.
"Critical to the success of the project thus far has been the intense involvement of the three boards and executive directors," said Maureen Millane Rusk, Associate Dean for External Business Programs. "We at Canisius College value the opportunity to continue working with these dynamic individuals to have a positive impact on the vitality of our region's not for profit institutions."
With such innovative plans underway, CEPA, Just Buffalo, and Big Orbit will rise above the burden of reduced operating support and limited staff to improve organizational stability and to sustain the quality and scope of their individual programming.  They will emerge from this process better trained with more stable revenue streams and the proven ability to prevail despite unforeseen challenges. 
An additional $45,000 has been secured from the New York State Council on the Arts.  Fundraising will continue throughout the project.
At the conclusion of the three-year project, CEPA, Just Buffalo, and Big Orbit will release the results of their efforts in a published report and in roundtable discussions.  This final phase of the initiative will detail the lessons learned and quantifiable results, serving as a road map for other groups interested in pursuing administrative partnerships.
For additional information please contact
Lawrence Brose at CEPA Gallery, 716-856-2717.