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Local Art Organizations’ Collaborative Efforts Result in New Organization

Years of brainstorming how to best serve the Buffalo and Western New York artistic community has led to the creation of the Arts Services Initiative (ASI) of Western New York, which officially began operations on August 1, 2011.  The Arts Services Initiative will coordinate the work of many local art organizations to effectively and efficiently serve the needs of the Buffalo art community. According to Paul Hogan, a board member for the Arts Services Initiative and vice president of the John R. Oishei Foundation, this collaboration will “provide an entire regional agenda” to guide management and services for local art groups, which “have specific focuses [within the art community]. Any [of these groups] can hire a consultant, but ASI can [consult] several art groups at once, which is the value that ASI can bring to the arts community… there are a lot of things this kind of organization can do on behalf that individual organizations can’t do alone.” By focusing on assisting art organizations and individual artists so that they can more effectively gain funding, educate Buffalo and gain recognition, the Arts Services Initiative will act as a unique, invaluable resource to the Buffalo art community.  
The ASI will address the need for common direction in the local art community by serving as an “umbrella organization” to three organizations: the Greater Buffalo Cultural Alliance (GBCA), Art Partners for Learning, and Advancing Arts and Culture (AAC). Both GBCA, a network of Buffalo’s not-for-profit art organizations, and Art Partners for Learning, an organization that coordinates art education in schools and support for young artists, will remain independent organizations. However, they will receive guidance from ASI such as staff support, technical and managerial assistance. AAC, which promotes Buffalo’s local cultural and artistic offerings to establish Buffalo as a both a touristic and national art center, will cease to exist separately from ASI, but its mission will continue through ASI’s efforts. ASI, as a collective endeavor, will also draw many of its initiatives from the defunct Art Councils of Buffalo and Niagara, as well as the Institute for Arts in Education into its mission. The ASI will ensure that these art organizations can retain their mission’s focus to enrich the art community but also network more efficiently through their connections to other organizations. By juxtaposing many valuable programs, ASI can promote art more effectively.
ASI will employ a variety of experts to best advance the organization’s plans. Its board of directors will include teachers, artists, businesspeople, and private and public funders with experience in promoting art. Additionally, ASI is also currently in the process of finding an executive director to successfully guide the ambitious initiatives of the group. After an executive director is hired, which Hogan predicts “will happen at the earliest on October 1st,” the ASI expects to arrange permanent headquarters in the Buffalo Erie library. ASI members will then begin planning different projects to best educate and serve local art through a strategically planned process.
The ASI will tailor their efforts into three distinct groups to best serve Buffalo’s art community. The three areas have been titled “Management and Technical Assistance, Public Education and Engagement, and Promoting Arts Education” by the ASI.  They plan to implement these focuses through technical assistance, management, education, and training classes and seminars, and education consulting. As Mr. Hogan noted, “these three areas of work overlap all the time. For instance, the AAC recently brought in a seminar for a couple dozen organizations regarding public policy engagement. [This involved] consultation with schools on how to add art immersion into their curricula, and also discussed the best financial software packages.” The ASI’s interdisciplinary, collaborative approach to guiding local artists and organizations will allow the organization to achieve all their objectives.
While the ASI has a well-prepared approach to achieving their goals, Hogan noted that, “[the immediate goals] for the program will be something we figure out as we go along. The challenge will be to offer [the best] value to our community with funding that may have been elsewhere without the ASI.” However, Mr. Hogan noted that the usage of ASI’s funding will be considered carefully by ASI’s employees and board of directors. ASI seems to be off to a promising start: they secured funding for their first two years through the Fund of the Arts and New York Council on the Arts. Furthermore, financial and legal services will be provided to the group by Innovative Charitable Initiatives, a subsidiary of the New York Council on Nonprofits, and offices are expected to be located at the Buffalo and Erie Public Library. ASI’s services will extend to Erie, Niagara, Chatauqua, Cattaragus, Orleans, Allegany, Wyoming and Genesee Counties.
The great effort required to formulate ASI’s program exhibits the project’s great potential, as well as the great generosity of those involved in its creation. As Hogan graciously stated, “none of this would be possible without the Fund for the arts and the foundations that are part of the Fund for the Arts. They have really worked hard to make this work.” He also explained that this is a great testament to the uniqueness and dedication of Buffalo’s art community: “the idea that [local] foundations are working together to help our arts community work together, [and so successfully following] what the ASI would like organizations to do is incredible. This [type of communion] is uncommon in other areas. It is very important to acknowledge the dedication of the Foundation for the Arts.” With both the greater Buffalo art community and ASI’s efforts, the ASI will help Buffalo’s art community thrive. 

Written by Mike Puma

Mike Puma

Writing for Buffalo Rising since 2009 covering development news, historic preservation, and Buffalo history. Works professionally in historic preservation.

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