By Andrew Delmonte
First Fridays pepper Buffalo’s Allentown neighborhood with a wealth of unique, inspiring, and free art exhibitions each month. Tonight, one exhibition not to miss wasn’t assembled from the work of a traditional local artist; rather, the 7 p.m. gallery reception at Starlight Gallery, 340 Delaware Avenue in Buffalo, will showcase the work of young students involved in collaborative programs through Young Audiences of Western New York.
The programs paired students with working professionals, university students and dedicated volunteers in an effort to produce visual art, instill architectural and design principles, and to inspire action and greater awareness in young minds. The Showcase of Student Work at Starlight Gallery includes work created in Young Audiences of WNY’s new partnerships with the Education Committee of the American Institute of Architects Buffalo/WNY, and Community Action Organization, as well as continuing partnerships with Holland Elementary and Heritage Centers.
Young Audiences of WNY’s mission is to make the arts a part of young people’s lives in order to enhance their development as creative and productive human beings. “Our goal is always to help young people to experience success,” explains Cynnie Gaasch, Executive Director of Young Audiences of WNY. “We want to expose them to new learning opportunities, and introduce them to the wonderment of the arts and creativity.
“Ultimately, they learn creative thinking skills, to work as a team, they communicate at higher levels through critical discourse, and gain tools that lead toward successful adulthoods.”
Much of the work on display comes from participating students in Young Audiences of WNY’s collaboration with a program called Architecture+Education (A+E), which brings architectural and design principles into the classroom and into the minds of youngsters.
“This is our first collaboration with a creative profession to bring programs into schools, aside from the traditional art forms,” explains Gaasch. “With this project, we had a team to work with, members of the Education Committee to design curriculum with teachers, and then support the work of the lead instructing intern architect, Linsey Graff.”
The A+E professionals sacrifice much of their professional and personal time to make the program a reality. “The volunteers (architects) worked on the weekend to cut paper, build templates, design Powerpoints, and assemble books. The same group helped to install the exhibit, and utilized the generosity of their professional peers to design a postcard and poster for our exhibit.”
With Mother’s Day fast approaching, I would be remiss to not acknowledge the dedication of my own mother to this project. As a licensed architect and member of the Architecture+Education team, Melissa Delmonte acted as coordinator for this A+E project.
“The goal of Architecture+Education is to provide children of all ages with the knowledge and insight to understand the built and natural environment,” she explains. “And it can be a powerful message. By understanding the principals that define architecture, children learn that they have the ability to shape the world around them.”
The ability to shape the world around us is key to affecting change on a community level. “It’s not only buildings,” she acknowledges. “It’s our neighborhoods and communities that they can shape through the principles of structure and design.”
Architecture+Education was founded in 2000 as an initiative of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Buffalo/Western New York to increase awareness of the built and natural environment by school-aged children through integrating fundamental architectural principals into the grade school curriculum. Beginning by offering a series of workshops for architects and teachers, A+E has grown to provide a collaborative program oriented around the renovations of the Buffalo Public Schools and bringing together school children, teachers, practicing architects and university students.
For more information on the Architecture+Education program and Young Audiences, or for information on how you can help bring these collaborations to more students in more schools, visit www.yawny.org or call Young Audiences at 716-881-0917.