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Cori Wolff: Cultural organizations are cornerstones of growth

By Cori Wolff

With financial support pending from the Erie County government, it is critical to identify the myriad ways in which arts and cultural organizations contribute to our region’s social and economic growth.

Buffalo Arts Studio is one of 58 such institutions whose measurable success depends largely on continued funding. Since 1991, BAS has operated with a modest staff and board, who work to nurture interpersonal relationships among our resident and exhibiting artists, students, volunteers, interns and visitors.

Over the years, more than 250 artists have taken advantage of BAS’ affordable subsidized studios. We have presented the work of hundreds of emerging and mid-career regional, national and international artists in solo and group shows, and continue to enrich the community with art classes and professional training for youth and adults. Our mentorship program encourages self-esteem, creativity, communication and networking skills, in turn preventing delinquency and promoting identity and a heightened sense of community in high-risk youth.

BAS frequently works with other local organizations on collaborative projects, while events and openings incorporate live music, performances and artist talks, drawing together individuals from diverse backgrounds to encourage cultural understanding.

Buffalo Arts Studio’s economic influence is quantifiable and substantial. For several years, BAS played a lead role in planning, budgeting, fund-raising and curating with 11 other arts organizations to create the high-profile, tourist-attracting Beyond/In Western New York exhibitions. In 2013, BAS will once again host Trimania, our largest fund-raising event, featuring six floors of installations, music and performances by the area’s most-talented artists, drawing 3,000 visitors and promoting a wide array of local vendors. In the past four years, artists in shows at BAS have been featured in numerous biennials and major international publications, raising awareness of Buffalo as a thriving, progressive city. Just recently, several works by one of our resident artists were purchased directly from his BAS studio by a major Italian collector – just one example of the positive impact on our local economy resulting from the advocacy we provide.

Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz has recommended $32,000 for Buffalo Arts Studio in his 2013 budget (10 percent of our operating budget), a testament to his trust in our programming and outreach. We appreciate the Greater Buffalo Cultural Alliance’s support for funding and urge the County Legislature and the general public to continue to recognize the outstanding importance of the arts as a proven vehicle for social and economic growth.

Cori Wolff is artistic director and interim executive director of Buffalo Arts Studio.