Diversity takes center stage again at AK360 meeting

Mar 6, 2019

The continuing road show of plans to renovate, expand and improve the Albright-Knox Art Gallery moved to a new location Tuesday night - McKinley High School, just down the street - to show a wider range of the community what's going on.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

The cultural center has spent years developing its plan for the gallery and raising money to pay for the plan. Tuesday night, the focus was on the planned indoor town square, which will replace an outdoor courtyard that is unuseable much of the year.

The new town square will draw in the neighborhood for free exhibits and as a passthrough between Delaware Park and Elmwood Avenue. Local artist John Baker said he has spent much of his life in the McKinley, Buffalo State and gallery area and the gallery can attract a more diverse crowd.

"All of us love art. If you've got something there that interests me, that's reflective of me, that I can relate to, I'm going to come," Baker said, "Because how many people do you know that don't have some type of a painting hanging in their house? I don't care if they bought from it from Walmart or Target or wherever, they got a picture in their house. So they do like art. If you give them more of a reason to come and they can relate to, you're going to get the visitation you're looking for."

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

Kadynice Patton, a Buffalo Collegiate Charter School student, is a dedicated fan of the Albright-Knox.

"I particularly like oil paintings, 'cause when you look at them, you can almost feel them," Patton said.

She said some of her friends say the gallery is "cool." Activist and gallery volunteer Eunice Lewin said it is hard to broaden the gallery's attraction.

"Change is challenging," Lewin said. "What I think that I am optimistic about that the leadership is thinking forward as to what it is that we need to do to be more inclusive."

Gallery Director Janne Siren said attendance at the gallery is rising rapidly and the crowd at the meeting was very diverse. Siren said there has been major generosity for the project.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

"Architecture is always a series of opportunities. Of course, there are challenges involved, but at the same time, I think we can be extraordinarily grateful for the situation where we are," Siren said. "We have a target of raising $160 million for the project and we have raised a little over $131 million."

Siren said he is confident the $160 million goal for construction and gallery endowment will be met in time to get construction started on schedule, this fall.

The overall plan calls for adding a major exhibit building on the site, renovations of existing buildings and the addition of an underground parking ramp that would be covered with a new lawn area.