A multiplicity of paintings, sculptures, and ceramic displays on wooden shelving units surround a spacious room. The natural sunlight shines through onto a large, decorated, and colorful work of art displayed in the middle of a cream-colored wall, illuminating the entire room with its welcoming brightness. Drums, canvas, a fireplace, and art books align the inviting, modern room. This isn’t the scene of an art museum – this is the start to a brand new art studio in the Queen City.
One local artist, entrepreneur, former professor, and visionary had an idea years ago that would bring people together and help revitalize a local neighborhood.
Justin Dahl’s vision is two-fold: to teach art skills to those who want to learn art, and to bring people back to the Riverside neighborhood, which he dubs a neighborhood that time forgot. This vision will come to life starting this weekend, as his venture, Queen City Fine Arts opens to the public on Friday, May 10.
Dahl, a West Seneca native, has had a flourishing art career. Though Dahl started his college career as a physics major, after he took a drawing class at Buffalo State College, his fate was changed.
“These are my people,” said Dahl. “This is where I’m supposed to be.”
Dahl also earned a minor in sculpture, dual-degree in art history, a Masters degree in museum studies, and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Radford University in Virginia. He taught in Chicago and Charlotte, moved to New York City to become an artist while running The Jubilee Gallery there, and then moved back to Buffalo after he was offered a job as an art professor at Buffalo State College. Dahl has also worked at Albright-Knox Art Gallery and Hyatt’s Art, as well as continuing to create his own work. In October of 2018, he wanted to make this his full-time job and left his teaching job at Buffalo State College to bring that type of education to other community members through his studio.
This multi-year project began in 2017, when Dahl, also a contractor for 15 years, procured his 4,000 sq. ft. building, and rebuilt it into a multi-medium art studio, creating everything by himself, a labor of love and art.
Though other studios in Buffalo do teach art classes, Queen City Fine Arts will be the first of its kind in Buffalo, in the sense that this studio is envisioned to be a one-stop hub for all levels, prerequisites, ages, and types of education for people who want to learn art.
Dahl will run his studio just like a dance or yoga studio does. Patrons can choose to take a variety of classes, as drop-in classes, and can come to whichever classes they would like. He is also running his studio like a college curriculum, in which there will be multiple levels of classes, multiple guest teachers, and an all-inclusive sampling of mediums.
Just like Dahl, the guest instructors on his teaching roster at Queen City Fine Arts also have impressive backgrounds. Other art instructors on the roster include Morgan Forte, Nikki Milley, Jonathan Matecki, and Madelyn Feldman-Edwards, and they will be teaching classes in painting, pencil, ceramics, charcoal, jewelry making, and drawing. Other classes in the future will include photography, printmaking, bookmaking, and sculpture.
The motto at the art studio is to learn skills and to do that by starting with the basics. Dahl is confident that anyone can learn to draw, and he’s going to help students take those skills from the classes.
“You have to learn how to hold a pencil,” said Dahl. “You have to learn how to look at things, you have to learn how to measure, you have to learn all these technical skills before you learn to create.”
At first glance at the studio, a giant “Q” is displayed inside a window, as a fluorescent and inviting welcome into a new adventure in fine arts. The studio showcases many rooms, with each having its own class, including the ceramics station in the basement. Each art room has art aids and artwork from local artists hanging throughout.
Another feature of the studio that Dahl is excited about is the front entrance room which will be used as a showroom, gallery space, and an area in which he can show movies with the projector and sound system he installed. He also hopes that space turns into an artist incubator where fellow artists can come together to sketch and have roundtable discussions about music or art. He wants to bring socialization back, through art. The other rooms and classes in the studio will display professional artists’ work.
Aside from the art and skills that people will learn, he looks forward to the benefits his studio can have on the Riverside neighborhood, as he dubs the “neighborhood that time forgot.”
Dahl realizes that Black Rock and Chandler St. are being revitalized, and that there are new breweries, wineries, pizzerias in brand new buildings, and it’s coming up Niagara St. and pushing up toward the art studio on Tonawanda St. He hopes to bring back the good connotation that Riverside once had, as a location right near the Niagara River and Riverside Park.
“The hope is that this area gets rediscovered as this place that’s a beautiful place…it’s all happening here.”
Check out more information and register for classes at Queen City Fine Arts by visiting the following:
The art studio located at 1111 Tonawanda St. will be open starting this weekend with a kickoff Open House on Friday, May 10 and Saturday, May 11 from 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Both days will feature artwork from local artists and drop-in art classes including classes for drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, ceramics, and jewelry.