Erie County, NY – An expanded world of artistic expression is coming to thousands of middle school students across Erie County (“the County”) as a vital public art collaboration between the County and the Albright Knox Art Gallery will put educational art kits focusing on five celebrated artists into students’ hands and classrooms in the coming weeks. Already being distributed in some public schools in the City of Buffalo, the kits are free and will augment existing art curricula countywide and provide all necessary painting supplies along with in-depth educational materials on five celebrated artists: Jacob Lawrence, Frida Kahlo, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Ryman, and Robert Rauschenberg. Gifted to the Albright Knox Art Gallery by Janet & Peter Boris, the collaboration with Erie County facilitates the kits’ distribution to a countywide audience of young art enthusiasts. Peter Boris, now based in New York, is a Western New York native.
“Placing painting supplies and art educational materials into the hands of young people is a sure-fire way to stimulate their creativity, engage their inquisitiveness, and energize their imaginations. This artistic outreach will empower and educate thousands of local students, providing them with an outlet for their own imaginative creations and educating them on the styles of the masters,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “The AK Public Art Initiative, a vibrant collaboration between Erie County and the Albright Knox Art Gallery to make art more accessible to the public, continues to bear fruit with this latest endeavor which teaches a younger generation about the intrinsic value of art and instructs them on how to create and display their own artworks. My thanks go to Janne Siren, Aaron Ott and our partners at the Albright Knox for their constant energy, vision, and commitment to introducing more art into the public sphere.”
Surrounded by students using the art kits in their classroomat the Buffalo Elementary School of Technology #6, Poloncarz was joined in discussing the latest public art outreach initiative by Dr. Janne Siren, Director of the Albright Knox Art Gallery; Albright Knox Art Gallery Curator of Public Art Aaron Ott; Erie County Legislator Barbara Miller-Williams (D-1st District); and Buffalo Public Schools Supervisor of Art Education Michele Agosto.
“I want to extend my sincerest thanks to Janet and Peter Boris for their extraordinary donation to our community, which will make up to 60,000 kits available for students throughout the City and the County. This generous gift will significantly advance the education component of our Public Art Initiative. Our children are the foundation of tomorrow’s creative economy, and it is our responsibility to ensure that they have every opportunity to embrace visual literacy at an early age and to prepare themselves for the challenges of the most visual of centuries. We want to inspire the youth of Western New York and we want to make great art readily available to tomorrow’s great thinkers and creators,” AK Director Janne Siren said.
Each high-quality art kits contain water color paints, paintbrushes & trays, artists’ coloring crayons, a soft cover book featuring each artist and their respective works, an activity book to get young artists started, and art paper for them to create on. The five kits spotlight five different artists and their unique styles, giving students the opportunity to learn more about each individual, their history, and their work while providing a critical lens for instructors to enhance their own classroom art offerings.
“The AK Public Art Initiative is about not only enhancing our community and environment with works of public art, it is also about art-making, creativity, and serving individual students as well as the broader public. We are all cultural producers,” Aaron Ott, Curator of Public Art said.
The kits retail for up to $30 apiece, but the Boris’s generous donation worth over $500,000 allows them to be given to schools free of charge. Buffalo public schools have received 20,000 kits to date. Distribution of the art kits will happen countywide with the assistance of J. Mills Distributing, a business owned by Erie County Legislature Chairman John Mills that will deliver the kits to waiting students throughout the coming weeks. Schools interested in obtaining kits should contact their Erie County legislator or AK Public Art Curator Aaron Ott; kits will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.
“J. Mills Distributing is happy to be participating in this great program. My drivers and I look forward to delivering approximately 60,000 kits to eager, young artists throughout the County,” said Erie County Legislature Chairman John Mills, President of J. Mills Distributing.
The Public Art Initiative begun by Erie County in partnership with the Albright Knox Art Gallery kicked into high gear earlier this year, beginning with the Tape Artinstallation at the Downtown Library. Tape Art featured the installation of “Buffalo Caverns”, a massive, temporary mural-style drawing made with painter’s tape on the exterior walls of the Library. The installation was begun on August 17 and remained on display through August 29.In late August, the iconic and hugely popular Shark Girlbecame the second piece of public art to be unveiled. Shark Girl continues to draw tourists and art lovers to Buffalo’s Canalside district today. Following the success ofShark Girl, the Public Art Initiative turned to the highly-visible “You Are Beautiful” billboard campaign, bringing a positive and conversation-starting message to billboards in all corners of Erie County and further expanding the reach of conceptual art. Another public art project involved nationally-known and Buffalo-born artist Charlie Clough joining hundreds of local residents on October 25 at Hilbert College to create an “arena painting” that will ultimately be displayed in the new art space that is being constructed at the Hamburg Public Library. More art works are planned as the Initiative continues to grow and public art is woven into the fabric of our community.
Under the Public Art Initiative, Erie County funds the salary of a Public Art Curator at the Albright-Knox to oversee the Initiative’s direction, while the Albright-Knox Art Gallery commits a portion of its endowment annually to purchase works of art for public display. The art works are in a variety of media and will be seen in communities all across Erie County, including the City of Buffalo, which has joined Erie County in investing in the Initiative.
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