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Remembering Simon Griffis

How else: with a party to benefit the Ashford Hollow Foundation, one year after his passing

As the one-year anniversary of his death approaches, family and friends of Simon Griffis reflect on the life that merits celebration. Simon—or, rather, “Sibo,” as he was popularly called—was an eternal optimist and dedicated his life to helping others see the light inside of themselves.

As the son of the late sculptor, Larry Griffis Jr., Simon grew up in an environment totally immersed in art. In his adult life, he carried on his father’s legacy as the executive director of Griffis Sculpture Park in Cattaraugus County, an outdoor sculpture park that stretches across 425 acres—America’s largest sculpture park.

However, Sibo established a legacy of his own by touching the lives of thousands through his active involvement in arts education. His influence stretched all over Western New York. He directed the Ashford Hollow Foundation of Visual and Performing Arts, an association dedicated to sponsoring exhibitions and performances. People of all ages, particularly adults, were welcome in his Essex Street studio in Buffalo, where he guided his students in discovering talents and interests of which they themselves were unaware. He was an advocate for children and taught several classes to those living in rural areas who, if not for Simon, may have never been exposed to such kinds of art. Simon was a dynamic force behind the artistic confidence of countless inner-city youths through his contributions to the Boys and Girls Club. His vibrant and enthusiastic nature was magnetic, and his students will forever remember him as not only an extremely encouraging educator, but also as a very dear friend.

Thousands suddenly lost this incredible friend last summer when Simon tragically fell to his death in a hiking accident that took place in Zoar Valley. He was 48.

On Saturday, June 25, from 5:30pm to midnight, a multi-media event has been planned to celebrate Simon’s memory. “Sibo: the Simon Griffis Memorial Celebration” will take place at the Essex Arts Center, located at 30 Essex Street in Buffalo, and will begin with renaming the studio “The Simon Griffis Studio” in his honor. Tickets are $20 at the door, and are on sale for $15 at Terrapin Station and Spot Coffee on Elmwood. All proceeds will benefit the Ashford Hollow Foundation. For more information, visit the Ashford Hollow Foundation online at or call 667-2808.

The event is certainly expected to be an artistic exploration, with genre-bending music acts and a number of creative performances and experiences. Music starts promptly at 5:30pm inside the Studio for Youth with performances by the bluesy Soul Committee, the Grateful Dead tribute band Sonic Garden, indie hits by Nick Gordon and the Family Band, Aircraft, Lazlo Hollyfeld, the multicultural party music of 12/8 Path Band, and the Talking Heads tribute band Stop Making Sense. Mbaye Rama Drumming and Dancing and Musical and Light Interpretation by Poverty Hymns Light Show will provide more artistic acts for the evening. Additionally, the event will host hula hoopers, a photo booth, live painting experiences, and much, much more.

Simon “Sibo” Griffis will forever be remembered for his innate talent for helping those less fortunate—or simply less aware—realize their artistic potential and guiding them in how to live up to it. Through his original style of teaching, he instilled important life values in his students that benefitted them outside of the classroom as well: confidence, respect for oneself, and respect for others. He gave them a new lens through which to look, and new media in which to release their greatest creativities, their most powerful emotions, and their most complex thoughts. Simon was a true asset to the Buffalo community and the thousands of lives who had the privilege to know him throughout his short experience with us. He is sorely missed.

rachelle toarmino

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