Arts & Culture

Buffalo Arts Studio Presents Panel Conversation on Contemporary Art and Folk Art Practices


Buffalo Arts Studio is hosting the panel Contemporary Art and Folk Art Practices to discuss how artists are influenced by the intersection of their cultural histories and contemporary experiences. This discussion will consider the way(s) one can be a contemporary artist while using cultural and/or familial practices labeled as “folk art.” The panel will examine how this category creates hierarchy and inequity for those outside of Western colonial and academic practices, and how curators, galleries, and collecting institutions can make space for artists within art rather than archaeological, ethnographic, or folk art spaces. The panel will include exhibiting artists, Deborah Canales and Benjamin Cirino from Multinational Art Illumination; El Batey Executive Director Beatriz Flores; Corporación Piñones Director Maricruz Rivera Clemente, Kanien’kehá:ka mother, artist, teacher, and language learner Jodi Lynn Maracle, and Dr. Dalia Antonia Caraballo Muller is Associate Professor of Latin American and Caribbean History at the University at Buffalo. Spanish translation support will be available. This discussion is made possible in part, with the support of an Action Grant from Humanities New York.


Beatriz Flores is the founder and Executive Director of El Batey Puerto Rican Cultural Center, an organization with a mission to honor and empower Puerto Rican people through culture, music, and history. Flores believes that bomba is the encapsulated expression of Puerto Rican history and ethos, as well as a vehicle for social change. Born in Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Flores maintains close ties to the island and their cultural practitioners and activists, often traveling to the island to continue her training while also bringing a number of experts to Buffalo to lead workshops and forums. Her cultural and historical knowledge and Puerto Rican networks are invaluable to the success of the 1,849 Millas project. Flores introduced Buffalo Arts Studio to the artists and many academics and activists participating in this project.


Multinational Illumination Art artists Deborah Canales and Benjamin Cirino were born and raised in Loíza, Puerto Rico, and currently live and work in Buffalo, NY. Cirino was raised in a family of artists and artisans who passed their traditions from generation to generation. Cirino studied with cultural visual artist Daniel Linn and began his workshop shortly after. Canales, whose artistic practice includes seashell doll-making and mask-making, began studying these crafts at the age of 14. Cirino and Canales, who have been working together for over two decades, formed the Multinational Illumination Art collective in 2023 to educate communities about the roots of the vejigante masks tradition, ensure that the cultural legacy continues into the future, and teach new generations about the art of carving vejigante masks.


Maricruz Rivera Clemente is an Afro-Puerto Rican activist, social worker, sociologist, and Ph.D. candidate at the Universidad de Puerto Rico del Recinto de Río Piedras. She is the founder and the executive director of Corporación Piñones se Integra (COPI), a nonprofit, community-based, and antiracist organization committed to seeking alternatives that result in improving the quality of life of residents, families, and visitors through education, community economic development, culture, music, and natural resources. She is also an active member of the Afro-descendant Regional Articulation of the Americas and the Caribbean (ARAAC).


Dr. Dalia Antonia Caraballo Muller is Associate Professor of Latin American and Caribbean History at the University at Buffalo.  Dr. Caraballo Muller dedicates herself to the twin (and intertwined) passions of historical research in her field and educational program development for social and planetary good. She is currently researching African and Afro-descended intellectuals in early 20th-century Cuba who thought at the limits of the possible as they staked claims to rights, dignity, and equality in a world that denied their full humanity.


Jodi Lynn Maracle is a Kanien’kehá:ka mother, artist, teacher, and language learner. Maracle utilizes Haudenosaunee material language and techniques, such as hand tanning deer hides and corn husk twining, in conversation with sound-scapes, projections, video, and performance to interrogate questions of place, power, erasure, story making, and responsibility to the land. Her research as a PhD student at the University at Buffalo focuses on Haudenosaunee material culture, language, land, and birth practices.


About Buffalo Arts Studio:

Buffalo Arts Studio (BAS) connects diverse communities through visual arts via inclusive exhibitions, educational programs, mentorships, and public art while also providing affordable studio space, exposure, paid opportunities, and ongoing professional development for visual artists. BAS is a catalyst for self-empowerment, innovation, and action focused on enhancing our region.


Buffalo Arts Studio receives exhibition support from The Cameron and Jane Baird Foundation, Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, Erie County Cultural Funds, Humanities New York, John R. Oishei Foundation, M&T Bank, National Endowment for the Arts, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation Arts & Culture Initiative, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature, and through Arts Services Inc.’s Creative Impact Fund program thanks to a New York State Senate Initiative supported by the NYS Legislature and the Office of the Governor, and administered by the New York State Council on the Arts.


Buffalo Arts Studio is located at 2495 Main Street, Suite 500, Buffalo, New York, 14214. For more information and updates on 1,849 Millas: Al otro lado del charco, A Diaspora Journey, visit

Niagara Falls.

Niagara Falls.