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The Art of Restoration

Buffalo State students Sarah Choczynski, Jeff Nixon, Laura Lemke, Sarah Marrone, and Deidre Kelley.

Buff State students exhibit community design work at Burchfield Penney

Results to date of several ongoing collaborative projects between Buffalo State student artists and the West Side community at large are on display in the educational corridor (above the main staircase) at the Burchfield Penney Art Center.

One project concerns housing rehabilitation in a way that would revitalize the housing stock but avoid gentrification. On this project, the artists are working with the West Side Community Collaborative, a group that has had some real success walking this tightrope.

The other projects include a Grant Street crosswalks beautification scheme, and the creation of a mural at the Asarese Matters Recreational Center on Rees Street.

The basic technique for revitalizing housing stock but avoiding gentrification—where the folk who used to live there can no longer afford to, and more affluent folk move in and displace the former residents from their neighborhood—is to keep the rehab costs down.

This takes some doing, of course. But the West Side Community Collaborative has done it in the case of a number of properties it been involved with, including the side-by-side double that now houses the Five Points Bakery and the Urban Roots gardening center, at the corner of Utica and Rhode Island streets. Half of that building had been vacant for 20 years prior to rehabilitation.

The artists’ work on the housing project consists of various ostensibly modest-cost redesign concepts for a number of currently boarded-up structures slated for rehabilitation. Alternative redesign sketches are on display alongside photos of the structures in their present condition.

Photos and brief explanatory material on the Five Points Bakery/Urban Roots building and several now very presentable looking residences that were neglected or abandoned and ripe for demolition before the West Side Community Collaborative revitalized them are also shown.

The Grant Street crosswalks project will include painting crosswalk areas at several intersections in unusual patterns and colors. Plaids and pop art swirls are among the possibilities.

Other possibilities for Grant Street beautification—but unfunded and so just possibilities—are artworks to spruce up some of the more dismal-looking corners along Grant south of Buffalo State. A couple of these are on display, such as a rope and pulleys sculptural apparatus re-righting a fallen or falling Grant Street sign. (The sign for the thing signified.) Another seems to be a mock-up for murals in a gritty realism with socialist overtones appropriate to the hard-laboring area population often made up of recent arrivals to this country and so latecomer aspirants to the American dream fantasy. At the end of the line, in other words.

The goal of the Grant Street project, in the artists’ formulation, is “to highlight the transformational role of space upon the daily exchanges of the people who occupy or pass through it.” (I think that means that if you make the environment nicer, the people will be nicer to one another. An interesting theory, and sounds worth trying.)

The Asarese Matters mural project designed and installed a mural in the computer room of the center, based on themes and imagery selected by the youngsters who use the center. The resulting mural focused exclusively on sports. Several alternative designs for the mural are on display. The exclusively and intensively sports design elbowed out a rather more lighthearted and whimsical design that included sports and arts and nature imagery. So it goes.

The student artists and the community collaborations occurred in conjunction with a course taught by Buffalo State fine arts Professor Beth Hinderliter. The exhibit continues through June 12.

jack foran

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