John Richard has been drawing and “sketching out stuff” since he was a little kid.
Julian Love likes to sing, dance and rap. And Amanda Rivera has a passion for all things related to art.
“I like to sing. I like to draw. Anything creative I like,” she said.
John, Julian and Amanda – all sophomores at Burgard High School – now have a new outlet to express their crafts and to fine-tune their academic skills.
It’s called the Buffalo Art and Technology Center. The Main Street facility, which provides arts education and mentorship to inner-city youth, is modeled after Pittsburgh entrepreneur Bill Strickland’s Manchester Bidwell Corp., which combines the arts and vocational programs to create social change.
The center, known as BATC, also offers workforce development training and courses in health sciences for adults.
“Our twofold mission of supporting high school students through graduation and helping unemployed Buffalonians get back to work begins in a center ... designed to reflect the promise we see in the students who will join us here,” said Executive Director Amber Dixon during Friday’s grand-opening ceremony debuting youth and adult programs. Hundreds attended the event.
The after-school art program at BATC began earlier this week with students from Burgard and Bennett high schools.
“I know it’s just begun, but so far, it’s amazing,” said Amanda.
The goal is to serve 190 students from Buffalo public schools this school year, officials said. And each child can stay in the program for three years.
Current courses include digital music and recording arts; digital film and photography; mural arts painting; drawing; collage; and book arts. There’s a sound booth, a digital studio, computer room and library. The center also has contracted with Arts Partners for Learning to have access to a pool of local teaching artists.
Crystal Lopez, a Burgard sophomore, explained how the Youth Arts program works.
Students are bused from their respective schools to the center at the end of each school day. They arrive about 3 p.m. and have an hour to do homework in the library room and eat food that is provided for them.
“And then from 4 to 6, we take classes,” said Crystal, who is enrolled in the music program with Julian and Amanda.
Julian is looking forward to recording and producing music, cutting tracks and shooting videos in the program. “It will look good on my resume if I go to college for graphic design or a music program,” he said.
John, who is in the art program, hopes the experience will help him with future career opportunities.
“I want to be an artist or engineer,” he said.
The center reached out to the Buffalo School District for students. There’s also a workforce development component to BATC for unemployed and underemployed adults that will start next month. Academic and training courses will be offered in medical coding and pharmacy technician over a nine-month period free of charge. Training will be geared toward employment opportunities at the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.