IndieSpace to Launch The Little Venue That Could Program

IndieSpace to Launch The Little Venue That Could Program

IndieSpace, an organization established to disrupt the ongoing displacement of small theaters and to create a new model for equitable funding for the indie theater community, will launch The Little Venue That Could Program, with generous support from the Howard Gilman Foundation. This new program will award two-year $10,000 grants to a minimum of 10 NYC-based performance venues with annual budgets under $750,000. Applications will open on May 15th at

“Small indie venues are home to so many artists and cultural workers in NYC,” said Randi Berry, Executive Director of IndieSpace. “They give us a place to gather, connect, experiment and create the amazing artistry that enhances our lives every day. Small venues are often forgotten by funders and individual donors who focus their support on the companies developing the creative work. But without these venues holding space for artists, incredible work would be lost. The last few years have been brutal for venues trying to keep their doors open. With this generous support from the Howard Gilman Foundation, IndieSpace is so proud to be able to give indie theater and dance spaces a moment to breathe.”

“Small venues are essential to the health and sustainability of the performing arts in New York City,” said Emily Sproch, Program Officer of the Howard Gilman Foundation. “We cannot ignore their value, as they quite literally give a platform to the ideas and voices that seed the entire field. The Howard Gilman Foundation is incredibly proud to partner with IndieSpace on this grant opportunity because no one understands the unique needs of small venues as deeply as IndieSpace!”

The Little Venue That Could Program was created to provide unrestricted general operating support to New York City-based indie theater and dance performance venues with expense budgets under $750,000. Due to size, fiscal structure, staffing arrangements, and unconventional leasing and ownership structures, these homes for artists are most often excluded from city, state, and federal funding and may not meet financial thresholds or the stated priorities of private foundations in order to get significant support. Despite this historical absence of consistent financial support and the growing affordability crisis in NYC, small-budget indie theater and dance venues continue to play a critical role in the creative ecosystem by providing artists with affordable performance and presenting space.

The Little Venue That Could Program grants will be $10,000 per year, for two consecutive fiscal years, and can be used to pay staff, rent, utilities, debt or whatever the venue deems appropriate to help them keep their doors open and thrive. A minimum of 10 grants, to 10 venues, will be given. Each grantee will also be automatically registered in IndieSpace’s FREE Advisory and Consulting program, providing access to experts and information throughout the lifetime of their space operation. In order to acknowledge the labor of submitting an application, IndieSpace has also allotted a total of $5,000 to be split and distributed among all eligible and complete applications.   

Applications will open via Submittable on Monday, May 15 at 9:00 a.m. EST and close on Monday, June 26 at 11:59 p.m. EST. Eligible applicants must be located in the five boroughs of NYC; have an expense budget of $750k or less in the last fiscal year, have been in operation for at least 2 years, operate at least one performance space with less than 99 seats; and have a current lease, license agreement, non traditional agreement or deed. Current annual Howard Gilman Foundation grantees are not eligible for this grant. Venues who have received funding from IndieSpace through any of our other funding programs are still eligible to apply.

Two virtual open houses and one in-person open house will be hosted for applicants to learn more about the process and to ask questions. For personalized one-on-one application support or to learn more about the application, eligibility, or any aspect of the program please visit or email

In alignment with our values of non merit based grant making and access for everyone, IndieSpace uses a lottery system for a majority of our funding programs. At times, a weighted system is implemented for organizations or artists that meet certain criteria that have been prioritized for a specific grant program, for example geography, demography, need, etc. The Little Venue That Could Grant will be using a weighted system, but ALL eligible applicants will be entered into the lottery, regardless of weight distribution. Priority in weights will be given to venues who are located in the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island; venues who were established by, for and are serving Black, Indigenous, People of Color, Disabled/Deaf, Transgender/Gender non conforming/Non-Binary and Immigrant artists; and who demonstrate values driven work through community impact, diversity, equity and inclusion, paying arts workers, and accessibility. Some application weights will be determined by a review committee of six indie artists and venue operators who have a demonstrated commitment to serving indie artists, represent the demography of NYC, and have an ongoing relationship to IndieSpace.
This iteration of The Little Venue That Could program has been generously funded by the Howard Gilman Foundation and is administered by IndieSpace staff in collaboration with cultural strategist Alejandra Duque Cifuentes of ADC Consulting.

The Howard Gilman Foundation is a private foundation that provides funding and support to New York City-based performing arts organizations that are reflective of the City’s vibrant cultural community. Its holistic approach focuses on acknowledging, studying, and empathizing with the unique complexities and needs of non-profit performing arts organizations. This approach is informed by the Foundation’s core values, which include respect for, and trust in, our applicants and grantees. With an annual grantmaking budget of $32 million, the Foundation is one of the largest private funders of New York City’s arts sector. Grantmaking dollars are primarily focused on general operating support, with additional investments in organizational financial stability. 

IndieSpace was established in 2016 to disrupt the ongoing displacement of small theaters and to address systemic inequities in NYC real estate. In 2022, it merged with Indie Theater Fund, an organization focused on a new model for equitable funding for the indie theater community. By contributing a nickel per ticket from their shows to a pot of money for funding, the indie theater community could create a method of self-sustainability and could rethink philanthropy and the process of grant making. Through radically transparent and equitable grants, community resources and advocacy, the Fund supported hundreds of indie theater companies and thousands of individual artists.   
Since its founding, IndieSpace has: consulted with 70+ venues making real estate decisions, including The Tank, FRIGID New York, The Chain, The Wild Project, Wooster Group, and Classical Theater of Harlem; helped 18 organizations sign new leases; saved seven theaters from being closed or repurposed; created four real estate operation partnerships; walked one venue through the purchase of their new home. During Covid, IndieSpace supported over 50 venues navigating their leases by helping them stay open, and also provided over $1.5M in relief grants to the indie theater community. In 2023 IndieSpace opened the West Village Rehearsal Co-Op with HERE Arts Center, New Ohio and Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. This 99-year lease for $1 per year will serve over 1,500 artists per year. For service to the community, IndieSpace received the Ellen Stewart Award and a citation from the City Council of New York

Alejandra Duque Cifuentes is a nonprofit leader and advocate working to advance a more just, equitable, and inclusive arts and cultural ecology. She has 15+ years of experience in strategy, general management, fund development, community organizing, arts education, professional development, and artistic production. Alejandra’s leadership is adaptive, empathetic, and multifaceted, and she moves with ease and intelligence among sectors, issues, and stakeholders. She is known for her ability to get results and draws on her deep relationships to drive accountable collaborations. As the former Executive Director of Dance/NYC, Alejandra acted as a leading voice advocating for dance workers and organizations—expanding the organization’s grantmaking portfolio, increasing the annual budget by 245%, and tripling staffing capacity. As a summation of her work and commitment to the sector, she established ADC Consulting, a boutique arts consultancy firm, in order to equipmission-driven organizations to create long-term cultural impact through fundraising, grant making, advocacy, research and organizational change. 

Published by malinism

Malini is a native New Yorker who has been involved in the arts for her entire life. She's served the theatre in many aspects of which she's very proud – actress, director, producer, stage manager, costume designer, prop designer, theatre reviewer, publicist and most recently writer/monologist. She received her BA in Theatre Arts and English Literature from Baruch College and her MFA in Directing from the Actors Studio Drama School. In 2003, Malini and her husband, Ian, created Black Henna Productions with a handful of innovative artists. Every member of the company collaborates on every piece, either writing, acting, directing, designing, or filling any other role that fit their own personal skills with a commitment to bring new, exciting, and challenging theatre to the world. She is an associate member of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society and a member of the League of Professional Theatre Women. Malini received the Woman of Distinction Award for her contribution to Media, Arts and Culture from the City of New York in 2008. She is also a Person of Godspell which ran at Circle in the Square on Broadway from 2011-2012.

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