By Erik Carman:
In the spring semester of 2010 students in Buffalo State’s Art Theory and Criticism class were challenged to take what they had learned in the classroom and share it with their community.
The result is Public Strategies: Projects for Buffalo’s West Side and is currently on display at the Burchfield Penney Art Center, but only until this Sunday. The students collaborated with community organizations in the hopes that their talents could help revitalize the West Side.
“The interactions that students had with the community partners were, for me, a way to put into practice the theories on public art and collaborative strategies in contemporary art that we studied this semester,” said Dr. Beth Hinderliter, who taught the course.
The project, and the exhibit, is broken down into three separate groups. The first section focuses on dilapidated houses. The group worked with the West Side Community Collaborative, whose work can be seen in the building where the Five Points bakery is located as well as the Urban Roots garden across the street.
The students took properties from Buffalo’s West Side and drew artistic renderings of what the houses could look like with some cost efficient renovations. While the West Side Community Collaborative has not yet chosen the group’s designs for construction, the students are hopeful that sometime in the near future their plans will become reality.
The second project worked with the Asarese Matters Recreational Center on Rees Street. After studying the history of murals the group began sketching ideas for a mural to embody the spirit of the center. The artists got their clients involved in the process by surveying the kids on their favorite foods, colors and sports. The kids then voted on which design they liked best.
The mural was painted on April 24 as part of Buffalo State’s Community Service day. The artists were awarded a Good Neighbor grant from State Farm, which paid for the supplies used for the mural.
The winning design was drawn by Sarah Choczynski, senior art history major, and features a monochromatic sports theme. “I think the mural gives the kids a sense of pride and ownership,” said Choczynski. The border of the mural was primed white so that the kids will be able to put their own personal stamp on the project.
For the third project the artists were given the challenge of looking at heavily trafficked intersections on the West Side and trying to brighten the day of those who pass through with art.
This portion of the exhibit begins with a metaphorical piece created from concrete taken from the West Side. A Grant Street sign is fallen over, but through a system of ropes and pulleys allows those visiting the exhibit to help the artist lift up the area.
The students also studied sidewalk art and came up with several designs, which have been superimposed upon intersections from the West Side and can be seen on a slide show as part of the exhibit.
Taking the place of traditional crosswalks, their designs range from darker and more shape oriented to free flowing explosions of color. According to Alana Ryder, museum education associate, the designs created by the students will be seen on the intersections in the near future.
The students involved were given the opportunity to make a difference in their community and took the task very seriously. “I hope as well that this transforming energy will be conveyed in the projects to the neighborhood residents as well,” said Hinderliter.
The exhibit will be closing at the end of this week, but the Burchfield Penney Art Center is open Tuesday through Sunday so there is still time for those who haven’t seen it to discover all the hard work these talented artists have done for their community..