Among regional museums, the Burchfield Penney Art Center has distinguished itself by casting an unusually wide net.
Since shortly after the time of its founding more than 50 years ago, the center has been driven by the philosophy of its namesake -- one that finds artistic potential in hidden places, or hidden in plain sight.
This idea is very much at play in "Stay Gold," a boundary-breaking party meant to celebrate the entire ecosystem of regional culture, from underground oddities to more established fare. It follows last year's popular 50th anniversary party, which drew between 3,000 and 4,000 people to the center for a spirited hodgepodge of installations, performances and exhibitions.
This year, the free party will feature a series of immersive installations and shows, from a collection Muhammad Zaman's lush, calligraphic paintings to a performance from artists Robert Allen and Suzie Molnar about "landscapes of the psyche" -- whatever those might be -- in the center's coat and locker room.
The party, which features some two dozen performances and events, is a bit like a concentrated version of the annual Buffalo Infringement Festival, which unearths the city's creative underground every summer. That's by design, said organizer and Burchfield Penney archivist and curator Heather Gring, who said the chief difference is that all participating artists in "Stay Gold" will be paid -- albeit modestly.
Perhaps the highlight of the event is the opening of "Images (Of Us By Us)," a show highlighting work by members of Buffalo's newly formed Urban Arts Collective. That collective emerged directly from the development of "The Freedom Wall," a buzzworthy public art project honoring black leaders on East Ferry Street.
That show, on view in the center's long second-floor hallway, features work by 14 African American artists who are members of the collective. The work ranges from promising pieces by emerging names on the local art scene to more developed work by mid-career or established artists.
For the collective's president and "Freedom Wall" artist John Baker, the show represents a long-sought recognition of Buffalo's vast population of working African American artists. The collective, he said, has already accomplished much in its young life.
"We're on the wall, and we're at the Burchfield. And you're talking about in less than six months," Baker said.
Featured artists include known quantities in Western New York's art world like James Cooper III, Renee Brown and Markenzy Julius Cesar alongside less recognized artists such as Kerima Collier, Gerald Seals, Mark Gaston Pearce and Phyllis I. Thompson.
The idea, Baker said, was to demonstrate a wide range of styles and skill levels to illustrate the ethos of the newly formed collective, whose 50 members meet twice a month to trade advice and work on professional development.
"The pieces that are selected are about how people of color creatively interpret their own culture," Baker said. "They're all painting, drawing , designing in different styles. Artists of color are more stylized in what they do, and that's what I'm trying to represent in this particular show."
"Stay Gold": 5:30 to 11 p.m. Dec. 8 in the Burchfield Penney Art Center, 1300 Elmwood Ave. Admission is free. Call 878-6011 or visit burchfieldpenney.org.