Weekly Feature



2017-12-27 / Lifestyles

Arts Services Initiative awards grants to 25 arts, cultural organizations

by HOLLY N. LIPKA Reporter


Members of the ABC Bel Canto Choir perform at Christ United Methodist Church in Snyder. 
Photo by Jim SmerecakPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Members of the ABC Bel Canto Choir perform at Christ United Methodist Church in Snyder. Photo by Jim SmerecakPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Leaders from the Arts Services Initiative of Western New York believe regional artists and arts and cultural organizations are vital to Western New York’s community and economic development. That’s why ASI provides one-on-one services, workshops and funding to keep the arts and cultural sector expanding in Erie, Niagara, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Allegany counties.

One way ASI supports these organizations is through its Give for Greatness grants. The $1,000 grant was awarded to 25 organizations this month and provides general operating support.

“A lot of these organizations are very grassroots; they don’t have paid staff members, and maybe their total budget is $10,000,” said Jennifer Swan, interim executive director. “To get an extra $1,000 at the end of the year could help them do so many different activities and programming.”


Members of the band Mouse Pad perform at last year’s Battle of the Corporate Bands. The event raises money for the Give for Greatness grants, which are given to arts and cultural organizations each year by the Arts Services Initiative. Members of the band Mouse Pad perform at last year’s Battle of the Corporate Bands. The event raises money for the Give for Greatness grants, which are given to arts and cultural organizations each year by the Arts Services Initiative. The funds can also go toward supplies, to a specific program or staff member, or anything the organization needs to operate.

“It’s hard to find general operating support because a lot of times supporters and foundations want to see a specific program benefit from their funding,” said Swan. “With the Give for Greatness grants, these organizations have that flexibility, and if they really just need it to pay their rent for the month, to us, that’s still a part of doing business.”

The ABC Bel Canto Choir was one recipient of the grant. The organization gives students in grades three through 12 the opportunity to perform, develop confidence in their singing, and learn choral literature and new singing techniques. Around 90 singers from 25 different schools make up the organization’s three choirs, with some as far away as Starpoint and Boston.

“We’re so grateful to be chosen as one of this year’s recipients,” said Laura Biddle, business manager and choir director. “Grants are becoming an ever larger share of our overall funding, as expenses for everything continues to rise. We don’t want to pass on those increasing costs to our families, many of whom receive some form of tuition assistance to even participate in our program, so we have been applying for more and more grants. It’s a huge relief to receive a grant like this.”

The organization plans to use the grant toward its Tuition Assistance Program, which helps families pay for the group’s annual tuition.

“The program costs anywhere from $3,000 to $7,000, depending on the year, so every little bit helps,” said Biddle.

Since the grant’s inception in 2014, ASI has raised and distributed more than $100,000 through Give for Greatness. Funds are raised with support from Fund for the Arts and the Rupp Family Foundation, as well as two annual fundraisers: Battle of the Corporate Bands and Lawyers for the Arts.

Besides the Give for Greatness grants, ASI gives out 100 to 150 different grants each year that range from $500 to $5,000.

ASI also offers a variety of workshops such as finding the right studio space for artists or how to make a musical production more accessible for those with difficulty hearing. Artists and organizations also can benefit from one-on-one services such as bookkeeping and budgeting.

Sadler said ASI has an open-door policy and will help any artist or cultural group in need. She also said that overall, its mission is to promote the arts and cultural sector in WNY and to keep it thriving.

“Sometimes people say the arts are not for them, but then they go to a community concert outside in the park on a random Saturday with their kids.

They don’t realize or make the connection that music is art. From ASI’s standpoint, it’s really important to highlight that arts and culture is relevant in our everyday lives and to keep supporting them, so that we can always have those options and those activities to enjoy.”

For more information about ASI and a complete list of awardees, visit www.giveforgreatness.net or www.asi wny.org.

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