Grantee Spotlight: Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Buffalo is enjoying a revival period, and one of the community’s standard-bearers is the 155-year-old Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
The museum is known for cutting-edge exhibitions as well as a permanent collection that includes work from Francis Bacon, Pablo Picasso, Henry Matisse, Freida Kahlo and Andy Warhol. Its main building, which is undergoing a closely monitored expansion, was designed by noted modernist architect Gordon Bunshaft, whose other works include New York City’s Lever House.
NYSCA’s support of the Albright-Knox, home to the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy, dates back nearly to the Council’s original inception.
Carolyn Kirchberger, manager of government and foundation relationships, notes that one of the museum’s most important patrons, Seymour H. Knox Jr., was NYSCA’s first chairman. In 1965, Gordon Smith, then director of the Albright-Knox, accepted an award from NYSCA on behalf of the Buffalo Festival of the Arts Today. The collaboration of arts institutions throughout Buffalo had set out to introduce the region to “the sights and sounds of the highly contemporary in art.”
Today, NYSCA’s general support has enabled the museum to extend its community ties, offering a “Free Week” as well as ongoing “First Fridays” with free admission and special programs. Education Curator Jennifer Foley says those programs and other initiatives help the museum “constantly seek to share the wonders of the Albright-Knox with everyone in Western New York.” Everyone, she adds, should have “the opportunity to experience the museum in fun, new and exciting ways.”
The Gallery’s community offerings include the Elmwood Avenue Cultural Corridor and public art such as the Freedom Wall at the corner of East Ferry Street and Michigan Avenue. The Freedom Wall honors 28 community and civil rights leaders from the Buffalo area and elsewhere in the U.S. During a celebration marking its opening in September, one of the wall’s artists, John Baker, said the objective was inclusiveness. “It recognizes the whole community and it symbolizes what the art institutions can do if they include members of the community in the process and the access to the project.”
The AK Innovation Lab encompasses videogames and other digital forms. And the museum offers Access AK, an initiative for disabled or impaired visitors with roots that can be traced back to the museum’s pioneering 1973 program Matter at Hand designed for blind or visually impaired visitors.
Maintaining access in every sense of that word has remained a key part of the museum’s mission. It recently opened the exhibition Out of Sight! Art of the Senses, which explores how art interacts with humanity through our five senses. Tapping into late-20th century artistic modes of performance, sound and installation art, the show highlights how the experiencing of art dovetails with the multi-sensory, participatory nature of everyday life.