From the onset, the construction of the new Burchfield Penney Art Center at SUNY Buffalo State signaled the arrival of a number of public works of art located throughout the grounds. It started with three 24-foot stainless steel projection towers in the Front Yard gallery in 2013. Now, thanks to a gift from the Junior League of Buffalo (JLB) – marking the organization’s 100th anniversary – the Art Center will soon be home to a permanent sculpture by artist Shasti O’Leary Soudant. The sculpture, fabricated in Buffalo by Rigidized Metals, will be located at on the plaza, outside of the Center.
The creation of the artwork was originally announced back in 2019, coinciding with the 100 year anniversary of the JLB. Two years later, news of the gift to the Art Center brings the sculpture one step closer to reality. During a recent celebration, a number of speakers heralded the news of sculpture’s imminent arrival to The Center. Speakers included Rebecca Gandour, president, JLB; Scott Propeack, Burchfield Penney interim director; Shelley Drake, Burchfield Penney board president; Dr. Katherine Conway-Turner, president, SUNY Buffalo State; Rachel Stenclik, JLB member; and artist Shasti O’Leary Soudant.
The sculptural work, titled Do Not Mistake Our Softness for Weakness, is meant to represent the strength and power of women and girls. The six ‘bold, vibrantly colored sculptural elements ranging in height from 5 feet – 12 feet,’ will certainly make a statement on the grounds of the Center, while acting as a reminder of the strong roles that women play in all of our lives. That sentiment has been one of the backbones of JLB, driving the organization to help empower women via numerous headstrong initiatives.
Each form symbolizes a transformational stop on the lifelong journey of womanhood that collectively embrace one another.
“The six revolving elements represent a faceted avatar, evoking the different stations of feminine power, progression, and metamorphosis,” described O’Leary Soudant, who was selected following an inclusive RFP process administered by a diverse, 12-member selection committee with wide-ranging backgrounds. “Do Not Mistake Our Softness for Weakness is my ode to our eternal becoming.”
“For the last 100 years, The Junior League of Buffalo has been committed to developing strong, empowered, women civic leaders, who over the decades have acted as catalysts for change in our great community,” said Rebecca Gandour, JLB President. “I am thrilled to have the opportunity for JLB to partner on a piece that speaks to all women, encapsulating our diversity, beautifully celebrating our past while provoking thought about our future.”
“A long-time friend and collaborator of the Burchfield Penney, we’re honored to have Shasti’s powerful work as a permanent installation on our grounds and we welcome the newest addition to our esteemed collection,” said Scott Propeack, Burchfield Penney interim director. “This striking visual interpretation will prominently greet all to our campus community, celebrating the central role of women in society. We thank The Junior League of Buffalo for marking its 100th-year milestone with an imaginative complement to our landscape remembering the past while influencing future generations.”
Dr. Katherine Conway-Turner, president of SUNY Buffalo State stated, “In 2019, I had the pleasure of meeting Shasti and hearing about her vision for this powerful installation. It is with great excitement that we will reveal this wonderful sculpture to the Buffalo State College and Western New York community this week. We thank The Junior League of Buffalo and our many community partners for helping make this important symbol of strength a reality.”
The sculpture was made possible by both private donations from individual members of The Junior League of Buffalo and the community through a fund independently established by The Junior League of Buffalo. The organization acknowledges the generous support of The Baird Foundation, Buffalo Renaissance Foundation, Buffalo State College, Burchfield Penney Art Center, Cynthia Vance and Scott Smith Charitable Fund, Davis Family Foundation, Delaware North Corporation, Gerald and Sandra Lippes Foundation, James H. Cummings Foundation, Josephine Goodyear Foundation, Joy Family Foundation, KeyBank in partnership with First Niagara Foundation, M&T Bank, The John R. Oishei Foundation, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Funds at the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, Rigidized Metals and The Vogt Family Foundation.