By Doug Sitler:
Simon Griffis was an educator that loved his students, more than they’ll ever know. From my personal observations, it was never more evident than attending the annual Boys and Girls Club Art Show where Simon would fawn all over the pieces of artwork created by inner-city youth. The art show was a collection of their works of art created with the guidance of Simon. Walking through the gallery space, Simon could tell you about each piece, the student who made it, and most importantly, the artistic integrity of the artwork. His pride and passion would melt into the discussion, and soon you would swear you were hearing about a masterwork from a renowned artist, not the creation of a seven-year old girl from Buffalo. To Simon, that student’s work was equally as impressive as any multi-million dollar artist.
Almost one-year ago, the entire Western New York region suffered a major loss due to the passing of Simon Griffis, executive director of the Ashford Hollow Foundation. The enigmatic leader of a storied-arts center in Buffalo and the wildly spectacular sculpture park in Ashford Hollow was one of the shining lights in our community. His energy, smile, positivity and warmth made being in his presence a wonderful experience, which wore off on students, educators and complete strangers.
For the thousands of lives Simon touched; the tears have dried, wonderful memories forever sealed, and a multi-media celebration is being planned to honor the life of Simon Griffis.
“Sibo: the Simon Griffis Memorial Celebration” will take place on Saturday, June 25, 2011 from 5:30 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. at the Essex Arts Center, 30 Essex Street in Buffalo. Tickets for $15 can be purchased at Terrapin Station or Spot Coffee on Elmwood, or can bought for $20 at the door. For more information, visit www.griffispark.org.
The event will kick-off at 5:30 p.m. with the re-naming of the student art studio at the Essex Arts Center to the “The Simon Griffis Studio.” It was the studio where Simon and his staff taught thousands of students throughout the years, including the arts programming for the Boys and Girls Club of Buffalo. Simon brought endless enthusiasm to teaching, which rubbed off on the students. As it happened with myself numerous times; someone would enter the studio, Simon would announce the person’s arrival to the class, and the students would cease their activities and walk-up, shake your hand and introduce themselves to you. Simon’s vision went way beyond creating something with one’s hands – he was into shaping minds and preparing youth for the foundation of a better life.
In typical Ashford Hollow Foundation style, the “Sibo” event is sure to be eclectic, bombastically creative and will consume all areas of the arts complex. Music acts include; Soul Committee, Sonic Garden, and Nick Gordon & the Family Band, Aircraft and The Talking Heads tribute band Stop Making Sense. Buffalo’s favorite New Orleans style-party band 12/8th Path Band will be working the crowd.
There will be plenty of additional artistic performances and experiences, provided by Mbaye Rama Drumming & Dancing, Musical & Light Interpretation by Poverty Hymns Light Show, hula hoopers, photo booth, live painting experiences and much more. All the proceeds from the event will benefit the Ashford Hollow Foundation.
Simon, or “Sibo” as he was known to many, picked up the torch passed by his father Larry Griffis, Jr in becoming the steward of the foundation that operates the sculpture park in Cattaraugus County and the Essex Arts Center on the Westside of Buffalo. In addition to managing America’s largest sculpture park, created by his father and siblings, Simon brought arts and education programming to all corners of Western New York. From his incredibly successful Boys and Girls Club program in the inner-city of Buffalo, to working with classes in rural areas, Simon brought passion, respect, kindness and unlimited creativity to his students. The impact that Simon Griffis had on students, his fellow instructors, the community, and most-importantly to his family and friends will realized for decades to come.
For more information, visit or call 716.667.2808.