The Burchfield Penney Art Center: a Buffalo State treasure

Buffalo State students are privileged to have free admission to an abstract, accessible and awe-inspiring art gallery adjacent to Rockwell Hall.

The Burchfield Penney Art Center is, “dedicated to the art and vision of Charles E. Burchfield and distinguished artists of Buffalo, Niagara and Western New York,” according to its website.

Founded in 1966, the art gallery’s name stems from American painter and visionary artist, Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967). He holds the title as one of America’s most original artists and is best known for his unique style of watercolor painting. His work illustrates his admiration and fascination for American subjects and nature.

Highly dedicated to his craft, Burchfield painted and drew over 1,400 works. The Burchfield Penney is the home for most of his work. There are over 10,000 hand-written pages of his work in the Burchfield Archives. The archives also hold over 20,000 sketches—some finished, some unfinished, all of which serve as inspiration for other paintings.

The Burchfield Penney is the home to the works of over a thousand artists, such as Robert Longo (best known for his images of Sigmund Freud), Colleen Ludwig and Julian Montague. The art center contains 16 galleries and 19,000 square feet of space for display areas. Like a snowflake, no gallery is the same—each room provides a unique feel and purpose.

Back in October, artist and Buffalo State faculty member Brian Milbrand, and architect Brad Wales envisioned a project that would turn the plain grey walls of the art center into something that would come to life. Milbrand and Wales turned their vision into reality and created a projection with a backdrop for audio and image. Dog walkers, joggers, bus riders and anyone traveling down Elmwood Avenue can now get a glimpse of what the Burchfield has to offer just by looking at the back drop. It coincides with the seasons and passage of time.

“The Front Yard experience is my favorite, I came on the grand opening when they closed down Elmwood and it was the most beautiful form of art I’ve ever experienced,” Buffalo native Leah Anderson said, adding that the experience for her meant that people in the community and art lovers all came together for this special event.

The center also has a wide variety of exhibitions. Still in keeping with Burchfield’s principles and ideas, each exhibition honors nature in some form. “Fly Fishing” is a current exhibition focused on “conserving, protecting, and restoring North America’s cold-water fisheries and their watersheds.”

The Burchfield Penney also offers a library, museum, a museum store and café. Weddings and other catered events are held in the gallery.

Buffalo State student Shardy Boyd enjoys going to the gallery in between her breaks from class. It takes a load off from a hectic day.

“I come here to meditate, especially when classes are stressing me out,” she said. “It’s relaxing to look at the artwork because I always wonder what drove them to create the piece. In a way it motivates me to continue to seize the day.”

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