Amber M. Dixon, highly-respected educator and administrator, has been selected as executive director of the Buffalo Arts and Technology Center. Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy joined project supporters in making the announcement today.
The unique center, to be located in Artspace Buffalo Lofts, 1219 Main St., will open in 2014 and offer after-school arts programs for at-risk urban high school students, as well as health sciences career training for under-employed and unemployed adults. Training will be geared toward employment opportunities at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and throughout the local health care sector.
"I am so honored to be named Executive Director of the Buffalo Arts and Technology Center," Ms. Dixon said. "By both providing "at-risk" high school students the opportunity for art and design lessons as a means of encouraging high school and college graduation, and providing training for adult Buffalonians to take advantage of jobs in the city's growing Medical Corridor, the Buffalo Arts and Technology Center will support the future success of the visionary investments that have been made by both government and private industry in our city."
"Governor Cuomo's innovative approach to economic development through the Regional Economic Development Councils is showing results today," said Lieutenant Governor Duffy. "The Buffalo Arts and Technology Center, which received Regional Council funding, aligns with the Western New York Regional Council's goal of connecting people and jobs. Today, with the addition of Amber Dixon, who has a wealth of knowledge and experience in education, the BATC is well on its way to making real progress in our region's workforce development goals and addressing the disconnect between training, education and the job market."
"We are pleased to join the courageous work being done across Buffalo by all those who understand our future depends on the successful education of our youth," Ms. Dixon added.
Ms. Dixon joins the Buffalo Arts and Technology Center after a successful career in K-12 education. She most recently served as Interim Superintendent of the Buffalo Public Schools. Prior to her time as an educator, Dixon had a career in industry.
A Buffalo native, Dixon believes her experience in educating Buffalo's young people as well as her time spent in private industry give her a unique perspective that will well serve the mission of the Buffalo Arts and Technology Center.
Ms. Dixon holds degrees from Medaille College and the State University of New York at Buffalo. She is the mother of one son, Sean, who is a proud graduate of the Buffalo Public Schools. He is currently practicing environmental law as a coastal policy attorney.
The John R. Oishei Foundation, First Niagara Financial Group, Empire State Development Corporation and Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo joined forces to establish the Buffalo Arts and Technology Center (BATC). To date, they have committed more than $4 million in public-private seed money earmarked for design and build-out of vacant commercial space to accommodate the youth and adult programs.
"We are very pleased to have Amber Dixon joining us as Executive Director. She is a proven leader and educator and her credentials and experience further validate both the significance of the opportunity we have to make a difference in the lives of children and adults in the City of Buffalo, as well the strength of the Manchester-Bidwell operating model we are leveraging," said John R. Koelmel, First Niagara President and CEO. "The success and sustainability of any organization is defined by the strength of the person leading the charge, and in Amber, we have an individual who will definitely do great things for our organization as well as those we serve."
The unusual marriage of art and vocational training programs is modeled after entrepreneur Bill Strickland's highly successful Manchester Bidwell Corporation in Pittsburgh, a two-pronged template for social change, which dates back four decades.
"Considerable time and effort was devoted to the search for a forward-thinking, knowledgeable executive director to spearhead the BATC. We wanted someone who understands the challenges faced by "at-risk" students in the City of Buffalo...someone who will realize creative ways to engage them and help them succeed in life. We are confident that Amber Dixon is that person. In addition, Amber brings a unique and personal perspective on workforce development to the table." said Robert D. Gioia, president of The John R. Oishei Foundation.
The BATC will be designed to keep "at-risk" teens engaged in their own education with an eye towards high school graduation and to establish specific adult training courses directly related to local industry needs such as those in our growing Medical Corridor. The programs will strive to provide hope and opportunity for those who need it most in our community. The BATC will potentially serve over 400 "at-risk" high school students and train 200 under-employed or unemployed adults over the next three years.
In late January, the private-public partnership announced plans for the BATC following an 18-month feasibility study, which included direct input from nearly 200 community thought leaders in the areas of education, the arts, employment recruiting and training, the health care industry and urban neighborhood revitalization.
The public-private partnership is another piece of the education reform puzzle that will build on the momentum of the growing "Say Yes to Education" initiative, which promises support and a college scholarship for students who live in the city and attend Buffalo Public and Charter schools. It also ties in with Governor Cuomo's $1 billion economic development pledge for Western New York aimed at job creation and retention.
HHL Architects of Buffalo, the firm which designed the building's adaptive reuse from a Circa 1900 automobile factory, and later a car dealership, to Artspace Buffalo's work/live lofts in 2007, has begun preliminary designs to create the new arts/vocational training center.