When it comes to signing up for art classes in Buffalo, there are a couple of directions that people might take. They could enroll in college. Or they might try one of the “paint by numbers” classes that takes the form of a wine party. For the most part, these are the crux of the offerings. According to artist/instructor Justin Dahl, Buffalo is missing the boat when it comes to serious art instruction, for those who don’t want to attend college. That’s why he has set out to establish Queen City Fine Arts.
After years of teaching at Buffalo State, Hyatt’s, and The Albright-Knox, Dahl decided that the time was right to open his own gallery-studio-classroom. He spent an additional couple of years searching for the ideal building, which he finally purchased two years ago at 1111 Tonawanda Street, across from Riverside Park. When he got his hands on the building, it was pretty much a wreck, although structurally sound. In a previous life, Dahl had been a contractor for 15 years, so he got to work at fixing up the building, which today is 90% complete.
Once open, sometime between mid-February and mid-March, Dahl will be living upstairs, while managing the 2000 square foot commercial space on the first floor. He says that Queen City Fine Arts will be unlike anything else that Buffalo has seen. “Other cities are doing this,” says Dahl. “But not Buffalo. There’s no place to go to learn this type of instruction, where students are taught about sightlines, and measuring with a pencil. This is real art instruction that involves practice. We will also be offering jewelry classes, ceramics (in the basement), print making, drawing, painting, sculpture, and eventually I would like to have a metal-making class. I’m only doing the things that I have studied and taught. I also have a bunch of teachers lined up and ready to go.
The way that Dahl looks at the structure of Queen City Fine Arts is like that of a yoga studio. He says that someone might come in to take a drawing class, and then move on to a painting class once they are comfortable with the basics. Or if they already know how to draw, then they can jump right into the painting class. It’s all about moving up the ladder. Students will not have to take unnecessary classes like they would in college, just to fulfill a requirement. At Queen City Fine Arts, they take the classes that they are interested in, and that fit their schedule. In the end, Dahl says that this is not about just showing up to class to paint a pretty picture and get a pat on the back. Instead, it’s about learning from the professionals, and getting better by practicing. “Think of it as a music class,” Dahl suggests. “In music class, students learn scales and practice. This will be similar.”
Dahl himself holds a Master’s in Fine Art from Radford University in Virginia. He also has a certificate in Museum Studies from Buffalo State. He understands the ins and outs of the business, and is also very aware that Queen City Fine Arts fills a niche in the city that was sorely needed. “Almost every city has an art academy along these lines,” says Dahl. “This will be Buffalo’s first professional arts institute of this nature, that is not affiliated with a college or university. Aside from professional instruction, Queen City Fine Arts will have gallery openings. This is going to be great for the neighborhood, and Buffalo – this neighborhood has some interesting things going on these days, and Queen City Fine Arts will fit right in with the rest of progress being made.”