In his book, “Who’s Your City?” Economic Geographer Richard Florida writes, “In today’s creative economy, the real source of economic growth comes from the clustering and concentration of talented and productive people … The clustering force makes each of us more productive, which in turn makes the places we inhabit much more productive, generating great increases in output and wealth.”

To attract, retain, and mobilize the creative class Florida hails, ECGRA designated and made its first investment in the Erie County Lead Assets in 2011. These nine place-shaping culture-, heritage-, and entertainment-based nonprofits are: Erie Art Museum, Erie Arts & Culture, Erie County Historical Society, Erie Philharmonic, Erie Playhouse, Erie Zoological Society, expERIEnce Children’s Museum, Flagship Niagara League, and the Mercyhurst Institute for Arts & Culture.

In 2012, ECGRA committed to sustain Lead Assets in perpetuity and created the Erie County Lead Assets Endowment held in trust at The Erie Community Foundation. With ECGRA’s most recent gift, the endowment grew to more than $11 million. ECGRA has committed over $15 million in grants and endowment funds to the Lead Assets.

While this grant category is not open, like-minded nonprofit organizations may qualify for these IMPACT Quality of Place grants: Community Assets Grants and  Special Events Grants , the  IMPACT Municipalities grant: Multi-Municipal Collaboration Grants, or the IMPACT Neighborhoods grant: Mission Main Street Grants.

Erie Art Museum

The mission of the Erie Art Museum is to maintain an institution of excellence dedicated to the promotion and advancement of the visual arts by developing and maintaining a quality art collection, encouraging art in all its forms, fostering lifelong art learning, and building community among artists, art students, and the public. The Erie Art Museum put $86,672 worth of grant money to work to offer free-admission Wednesdays and Second Sundays. The money was also used toward financial aid for group tours and intern and teachers-in-training opportunities. Click here to watch our video and see how ECGRA's investments are sustaining the Erie Art Museum.

Erie Arts & Culture

The mission of Erie Arts & Culture is to nurture the arts and enrich the lives of everyone in northwest Pennsylvania through leadership, financial support, education, and advocacy. By promoting the arts throughout the region, Erie Arts & Culture enables people to discover, experience, and enrich their lives through various arts. Erie Arts & Culture educates the youth through artist residencies, and supports local artists and art organizations. They also envision a community in which everyone has access to the arts. Erie Arts & Culture received $63,677 to launch the new directory website "CultureSpark" to promote the region's artists and nonprofit and for-profit arts, culture, and heritage organizations.

Erie County Historical Society

Erie County Historical Society is dedicated to collecting, preserving, and promoting the study of our region's history. The vision of the Erie County Historical Society is to lead, inspire, and engage the community through vibrant, exciting, and entertaining exhibits and programs. This organization operates four historic house museums including: R.S. Battles Farmhouse, Charlotte Elizabeth Battles Memorial Museum, Cashier's House, and the Watson-Curtze Mansion. The Museum of Erie County History and the planetarium are also managed by this group. The Erie County Historical Society received $37,341 to modernize the planetarium and purchase three new shows. They also put their grant money to work to create and print full-color brochures and host NASA Astronaut Michael Fincke in September 2011. Click here to watch our video and see how ECGRA's investments are sustaining the Erie County Historical Society.

Erie Philharmonic

The mission of the Erie Philharmonic is to strengthen the community and region by providing high-quality live orchestra concerts and programs that enrich, entertain, and educate people of all ages. The Erie Philharmonic has been part of Erie County for 95 years and has showcased world renowned artists, such as Duke Ellington, Yo-Yo Ma, Helen Traubel, and Andres Segovia. ECGRA granted $80,855 to the Erie Philharmonic to expand tourism outreach and develop promotional materials that increased attendance and maintained 170 local jobs.

Erie Playhouse

The Erie Playhouse enriches the greater Erie region by providing lifelong opportunities to participate in quality theatrical productions as artists, audience members, and advocates. The Erie Playhouse was founded in 1916 and has been an Erie favorite ever since. ECGRA granted the Erie Playhouse $81,664 to provide support for more than 20 theatrical productions, offer theater arts workshops for underserved and underprivileged youths, and to further the Erie Downtown Arts & Culture Coalition. The money also went toward opening the 1818 Erie Land Lighthouse for five days with authentically costumed Erie Playhouse actors conducting the tours as part of a reenactment.

Erie Zoo

The mission of the Erie Zoological Society is to foster an appreciation of the natural world and the animals and plants that share it. The Erie Zoo works to establish educational and recreational opportunities for all ages, to nurture the thrill of discovery, and to promote scientific study. The staff members at the Erie Zoo provide the highest level of care for all of the animals and plants under their care, and encourage the conservation of all species through captive breeding, natural exhibits, and wildlife exploration. The Erie Zoo put $184,930 worth of grant money to work to offer Wild Wednesdays open until 8 p.m. in July and to landscape the south and west gardens with plantings and animal silhouettes. The money also went toward increasing the staff, repairing a lift station, and expanding the zoo newsletter.

expERIEnce Children's Museum

The expERIEnce Children's Museum mission is to enrich the lives of children by providing an educational, creative, interactive, and safe environment where learning and fun go hand-in-hand. There are a number of exciting exhibits to please all visitors such as the Bubble Machine, Recycle Michael, Kid's Corner Store, and the LORDTON Model Train. The Children's Museum received $28,075 to increase education staff hours, classes and special events, repair HVAC, purchase program supplies, and design and print newsletters and promotional materials.

Flagship Niagara

The Flagship Niagara League, in conjunction with the Erie Maritime Museum, offers numerous educational opportunities for anyone who wants to learn more about Erie's involvement in The War of 1812. There are opportunities to sail aboard Flagship Niagara and learn what it was like to live on the sea. The Flagship Niagara has touched thousands of adventurous people of all ages with unique life experiences. The Flagship Niagara League put grant money to work totaling $33,533 to hire the league's first full-time development and marketing director. The grant money was also used to create three signature events including the Mariner's Ball, Homecoming Party, and Ghosts Afloat, and to launch the first annual fund and membership campaign, which raised a combined $70,000.

Mercyhurst Institute for Arts & Culture

In the belief that the arts have always been, and always will be a meaningful force in human life, and that artists represent the finest of human potential, the Mercyhurst Institute for Arts & Culture is dedicated to making the arts a living presence within the Erie and Mercyhurst University communities, and to offering the finest to those who join us in celebrating the arts. Some notable events held in the 2011-2012 season included Yamato, Órla Fallon, and The Robert Cray Band. The Mercyhurst Institute for Arts & Culture used $50,065 worth of grant money to expand nationally and internationally acclaimed programming and increase program attendance.