A Glimpse at the Imagination of Buffalo Arts Studio

Originally posted on Buffalo Vibe

Buffalo is full of hidden gems that the layperson may not know exist. A cultural hotbed for the arts, it’s almost excusable that you could let some slip through the cracks when you’re engaged with partaking in what all the rest have to offer.

One of these lesser-known entities that deserve your attention is the not-for-profit organization Buffalo Arts Studio. Don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard of them—or do feel bad enough to educate yourself on what they provide to the community and yourself as an arts lover seeking new experiences in and around the city. I too was oblivious until my college years at UB and the much needed field trip to the behemoth that is the Tri-Main Center—then home to BAS and Hallwalls.

With Hallwalls now residing at Babeville’s Delaware and Tupper locale, BAS has grown to become one of the industrial landmark’s mixed-use lynchpins. What began in 1991 as a corporation renting studio space to artists within its 15,000 square foot space expanded to include its first gallery in 1992 and a board of directors in 1993. By 2000 they had sprawled out to 23,000 square feet and today finds itself as the home of thirty-five resident artists with an average of 25,827 visitors a year. I know that’s a lot of facts and numbers, but they do paint the picture of unequivocal success.

I remember not being sure what to expect parking in front of the huge building and walking through those cavernous halls, but you cannot deny the feeling of limitless creativity when you reach Buffalo Arts Studio’s doors. There was a show in progress that we were able to roam around before heading over to the working studio space. Some housed artists hard at work on their next masterpiece while others simply gave an open door to see the in-flux progress of the sorts of creators we hoped to mold ourselves into. It was an experience not easily forgotten and that was just from a tour.

But that’s what BAS can offer on top of simply being one more gallery to visit for a glimpse at up-and-coming artists or those with a trusted pedigree of quality. They provide a community for these creators to have an affordable space outside of their apartments or homes whether private or semi-private with access to a kiln, computer lab, darkroom, and printmaking tools. And their reach stretches even further with an arts education program where professors, teachers, and professionals train tomorrow’s artists in a variety of six-week courses and one-day workshops.

It’s a veritable one-stop shop that takes in imaginative minds between the ages of 11-18 and prepares them for the rigors of an arts degree by specializing in portfolio building and facilitating monthly open art critiques. How great is it that children at the very beginning of their education can watch and learn from real artists in the same space? They not only have role models to look up to, ask questions of, and aspire towards, but they know when the time comes they too could find themselves renting a space to continue the cycle with a new generation.

From the vision of co-founder Joanna Angie to the just ended Cori Wolff era, BAS has outdone itself with singular ideas such as the Mobile Art Project (transportable installations to service hundreds of kids each day around the city in a way that coincides with an education topic teachers can have their students working on), events like Canalside Plein Air Easels (ten outdoor easels fabricated by sculptor Larry Griffis at Canalside free for public use while also allowing for summer painting demonstrations), and even out-of-the-box activities like special quiz nights at Michael Driscoll’s Founding Fathers Pub.

This month saw the hiring of Wolf’s replacement in the form of Alma Carrillo López as Executive Director and Sara Zak as Curator. The two are ushering in a new chapter in Buffalo Arts Studio’s third decade to continue its growth and exposure within the Buffalo community.

While the transition gets under way, though, don’t delay on coming out to experience BAS now. Check out the current Buffalo Public Schools Teachers’ Exhibition as well as the Jump Start Program Annual Student Show, both running until July 12th. Also, you can prepare for the work of Alicia Malik and duo Kristina Siegel & Jorg Schnier from July 25th to September 13th. From there comes the echo Art Fair‘s site-specific installations of which BAS is a partner in September and the Annual Artists Exhibit and Sale in November. And if you’re unsure when to go, take advantage of M&T Bank’s monthly Fourth Fridays with exhibition openings, artist meet-and-greets, film screenings, live music, poetry readings workshops, and much more.

BAS is literally waiting with open arms to introduce you to art in its multi-faceted ways. Come for a show or a tour. Sign up your children for the next season of classes. Submit your application for residency to take advantage of the total package. A unique world for all ages, BAS shows no signs of slowing down as López looks to make her mark and cement the studio as a premier venue leader inside Buffalo’s ever-expanding cultural riches.

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