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Locust Street Art's Annual Show

Student work on display at Locust Street Art

A Fruit Belt Fixture

Works of more than 300 artists are on display in Locust Street Art’s fifty-fourth annual show. The artists range in age from three years to adult unspecified. The work categories include children’s painting and drawing, children to adults clay, teen to adults painting and drawing, teen to adults photography, and the newest media category at the facility, hand-drawn animation, introduced last year and taught by facility Executive Director Liz Van Verth.

Plus there’s a multi-media room featuring just works about architecture. Including several paintings of the neighborhood, one showing the Locust Street Art building and surroundings and UB medical campus high rises looming in the background; a number of silo city paintings and drawings, showing grain silos inside and out; some photos of houses in the neighborhood; and some archival photos of the fire that destroyed the legendary jazz venue The Little Harlem Hotel, not far away on Michigan Avenue.

One’s first impression is of the riot of color, in room after room of paintings, and up and down corridors, and along staircase walls. And similar riot of black and white in the photography room and portion of a hallway. Some of the photography in color, but most of it black and white. And black and white of the pencil drawings, dispersed among the paintings.

More riotous color among the glazed and fired clayworks, in a range of forms from cups and pots to animal and vegetal representations.

It’s the best work from the past year, as chosen by the instructor or instructors in each instructional category. Jaime Michelle Smith was the show curator overall. Some students have more than one work in the show, but every student has at least one. In addition, some pieces from the Locust Street Art permanent collection are on display in the main hallway.

The youngest students start with tempera paints, with which they paint pre-abstraction abstracts in free-style color blends, and starter representational works. As teenagers they move into classes for teens to adults. The oldest students at the center are age eighty or more.

It’s frustrating to try to single out from such a multitude of artworks and artists. But George Pulinthitta’s magical imagism non-portrait portrait of a woman in what looks like a babushka, against what could be a flowery backdrop (from Molly Bethel’s teen/adult painting class), and Edgar Sheehy’s sprig of dark green foliage against lighter green to yellow background among the color photos, and Decari King’s camera artifact circle of light photo among the black and whites (from Kenn Morgan’s teen/adult photography class). And from the team-taught classes, Arandas Everette’s sonic community work including a blue man, a red woman, and several less prominent or identifiable figures; Messias Atkins-Kendrick’s wonderful red McDonald’s restaurant with welcoming outstretched arms and big yellow smile; Ava Roberson’s celestial-look blue and white abstract painting; and Sarah McMullen’s bright orange ceramic jack-o-lantern.

While I was present, Buffalo Common Council President Rev. Darius Pridgen came in for a look. He was mightily impressed. And so impressed with the photography section of the show, he said he intended to sign up for the next photography class (and that was before he was informed that classes at the Locust Street Art are free).

Locust Street Art (formerly under the name MollyOlga) has been offering free art instruction to all interested since 1959. The facility at 138 Locust Street is a fixture in the Fruit Belt community and the Buffalo art community in general. A readily available handout flier lists summer and fall programs.

The annual exhibit stays up all year.

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