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Ralph C. Wilson Foundation gives $6 million to Albright-Knox

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

The Albright-Knox Art Gallery's ambitious fundraising campaign to support its expansion plan got a financial boost Wednesday morning, when they officially announced a gift from the foundation named for the late founder and original owner of the Buffalo Bills.

The Ralph C. Wilson Foundation's $6 million contribution to the AK360 project increases the total amount raised by foundations and corporate sponsors to more than $14 million.

Mary Wilson, widow of the late Ralph Wilson, says while her husband was best known in this region for football, he was fond of the arts.

"He wanted a winning team. He kept thinking about that," Wilson said. "But he lived around art. He lived around Monet, Manet, Sisley and loved greatness. He would have been overwhelmed to be in that room, with the power in that room. Hopefully we can continue to come together and continue to make Buffalo the great place it is meant to be."

Both gallery officials and major donors marvel at how quickly they've been able to raise tens of millions of dollars for AK360. The largest gift, and the one which sparked a match program and other donations, is the $42.5 million provided by local native Jeffrey Gundlach. His name will be added to the gallery's official title when construction is complete.

Gallery Director Janne Sirén told guests at Wednesday's ceremony that arts are the "universal connectors" of a thriving city, contributing to tourism, education and attracting a young workforce. He spoke of what the forthcoming transformation of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery will do for the museum and the community.

"It will contribute to Buffalo's distinguished architectural legacy and it will bolster the resurgent cultural economic life of the entire region," he said. "It will reimagine the way that our visitors, students, families and a diverse and growing Western New York engage with this incredible cultural resource."

Sirén announced that the stories behind this summer's campaign will soon be collected and made into a book. The purpose of that project, he said, is not to glorify the museum but rather to show other institutions and cities how an ambitious project like AK360 can be achieved.

He anticipates the book will be released in about two years.

"We won't go to print before we have some kind of design renderings, so that the design of the new building will also be documented in this book," Sirén said.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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