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Buffalo candidate for prized art center

photo courtesy of the Manchester Bidwell Corporation

By Joyce Kryszak

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wbfo/local-wbfo-978667.mp3

Buffalo, NY – Buffalo soon could be home to a nationally recognized art education and mentoring center for inner city youth and adults.

In the late 1960's and early 1970's, visionary leader Bill Strickland developed successful youth and adult mentoring and training programs in Pittsburgh.

Strickland and his Manchester Bidwell Corporation have been awarded a MacArthur Genius grant and been recognized by President Obama.

The model is now duplicated nationwide as the National Center for Arts and Technology. Buffalo is one of several cities across the country in the pipeline to be considered as a site.

The Oishei Foundation is a lead supporter. Oishei President Robert Gioia said he initiated the process after hearing Strickland speak in Buffalo a couple of years ago.

"Bill's a very charismatic guy. He's very convincing. Also, the success that he's having in other communities, we said this is something that is scalable and saleable," said Gioia.

Scaleable Gioia said because the programs work with a manageable number of about three hundred people. Saleable he said because the programs work.

One program uses art as a medium to motivate inner-city youth. About 90 percent of the kids graduate from high school.

The other program trains adults in everything from horticulture to medicine. About 95 percent of them end up getting jobs. Gioia said these are the kids and adults who have been falling through the cracks.

"It is reaching out to a part of the community that most other existing programs have great difficulty in reaching," said Gioia.

So, last year the Oishei put forward the $150,000 needed for the feasibility study. Gioia said Strickland and his team have since been evaluating whether or not Buffalo is a good candidate.

"Is there a need in the market? Is there a willingness in the market? Can we compliment other programs that currently exist, as opposed to compete? And is their sustainability in the willingness in the area to support it?" said Gioia.

He said the annual roughly one million dollar pricetag for the center would be covered by philanthropic groups and new state and federal funding.

Gioia said he is optimistic Buffalo will be accepted as a site. A decision is expected this fall.