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Buffalo Arts Studio bids farewell to Joanna Angie with a 20th anniversary exhibition

Works by Osvaldo Ramirez Castillo (above) and Megan Michalak (below, right) are among those included in Buffalo Arts Studio's 20th anniversary show.

Evolution, Revolution

I had been meaning to talk with Joanna Angie, founder and director of Buffalo Arts Studio, since last spring for Tri-Mania when I volunteered to run the tricycle races and had so much fun that I am volunteering for the 20th anniversary celebration and exhibition on October 1.

Located on the fifth floor of the Tri-Main center, BAS has been a tenant of the re-purposed factory building for more than 15 years. As we sat in her studio, Angie quizzed me about what I was going to ask her. She demurred talking about herself or her work—paintings that are powerful and timeless interpretations of Tibetan pictograms, yet, being oil on canvas, reflect a nominal Western influence.

We settled down instead to piecing together a brief history of BAS. In 1991, Angie moved from New York City up to Buffalo. Needing to rent a studio, she found herself on Chippewa Street and happened to look in the window of the Calumet building, where a guy was breaking down walls with a sledgehammer. She got his attention, asked about a place to rent, and met the one person in all of Buffalo often pivotal to the development of cultural commerce, Mark Goldman, who was in the process of turning the Calumet into a supper and jazz club. He rented Angie a space upstairs. She quickly found other artists to rent space in the building, until they were kicked out on a zoning restrictions.

From there a series of fortunate events brought Angie to the Tri-Main. This was of course the era of Piss Christ, the shenanigans of Karen Finley, and the devastation of the National Endowment for the Arts. Arts grants were as rare as teeth on a city-raised hen, but through sheer chutzpah and not a few grace notes of persuasion, Angie managed to rent the space at Tri-Main Center while developing an abiding, fruitful relationship with landlords, partners, and, later, board members.

Since 1993 the BAS exhibition program has supported new work by emerging and professional regional national and international artists. From the earliest years when artists had to print their own promotional material to this year’s highly evolved anniversary catalog announcing the October 1 opening, BAS has provided a showcase for both resident artists and artists from around the world. It has become an integral part of the cultural collateral of the region, with several recently exhibited artists featured prominently in numerous contemporary publications.

Angie says that much of the recent curatorial outreach developed over the last two years has been in large part due to the creative and innovative contributions of exhibits curator Cori Wolff. Wolff sees the commemorative exhibition’s title, Evolution/Revolution, as “interchangeable in describing Buffalo Arts Studio’s past, present, and future. ‘Evolution’ speaks to BAS’s humble yet bold beginnings and steady maturity over the past 20 years, while ‘revolution’ points to BAS’s impending transitional change: the poignant retirement of founder/director Joanna Angie.”

Evolution/Revolution hosts the return of more than 60 artists to the studio where many of them launched their careers with their first solo shows. Rather than approaching the exhibition as a retrospective, Wolff has invited the artists to show new work. Both emerging and established artists, young, old, and in mid-career, exhibit in a range of media including painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, collage, ceramics, mixed media, video, and performance art.

Angie’s “porch meetings with a small group of artists” have created priorities defining the contemporary idea of a comprehensive arts organization: studios, exhibitions, and education programs. Her passion and commitment generated a centralized vision “ a community of artists…artists for a community.” BAS’ long-standing principles of inclusivity and experimentation are reflected in a young dedicated staff leading with fresh energy and creative enthusiasm.

Evolution/Revolution opens with free public reception Saturday, October 1, 7-11pm.

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