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New Construction at Artspace
by J. Tim Raymond
An update on the construction of the new Buffalo Art and Technology Center
Recently a fellow resident of Artspace and I attended a planning meeting and press briefing on the state of the Art and Technology Center now under construction at Artspace Buffalo.
Over coffee at Spot on Chippewa, we sat with Amber Dixon, the new center’s executive director, as she spoke about the developments going forward at the site. For some number of months we residents have had to content ourselves with infrequent meetings on the state of plans moving to completion of the center. Our primary inquiries centered on the anticipated redistribution of physical arrangements for the gallery exhibition space as well as potential employment at the center as teaching artists. Dixon was very forthright about addressing our concerns, noting the center’s opening was presently dependent on getting a certificate of occupancy by the time the schedule for construction is completed in September. Currently classes of instruction for candidate technology students are being held off-site at the Adult Education and Training Center on South Elmwood at Virginia Street. Criteria for candidacy are a 12th-grade education or GED certificate. Expected enrollment is 36 students, to be trained as medical coding and pharmaceutical technicians. After school art classes for “at risk” young people will be held weekdays, 4-6pm, concentrating on computer graphic design and computer animation.
The idea for the center evolved from the proven concept of “social action and entrepreneurial vigor,” the brainchild of MacArthur Foundation Award winner Bill Strickland, who started an arts program for urban youth amid the ghetto riots in Pittsburgh following the death of Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King in 1968. Strickland saw job training and community arts programs as part of the solution to problems faced in the cities. His product was purpose, meaning, and hope. Because he also presented a sharply focused business plan of slow organic growth, by the late 1990s his inspiration and motivation moved his likeminded investors to create replications of his Manchester Bidwell (the neighborhood in Pittsburgh he started from) program shaped by the particular needs and resources of cities such as New Orleans, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles, as well as advancing the concept abroad to Japan, Israel, Belfast, Ireland, and Costa Rica. Strickland’s programs success has spread around the planet, giving a measure of solution to difficult social problems, serving the poorest and often the most slighted underclass worldwide.
Following the planning meeting we were invited to attend the press briefing amid the on-going construction at 1219 Main Street. Robert Gioia, president of the John R. Oishei Foundation, a major contributor to the project, spoke in behalf of the program along with Dixon, both taking questions from representative press from Channel 2, YNN, and WBFO. Occasional interruptions from jackhammers did not deter an enthusiastic exchange between presenters and press.blog comments powered by Disqus
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