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Running short on time and money, Albright-Knox issues call to community

Nick Lippa

The director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery says he needs the public to join some wealthy donors in contributing for the planned $155 million expansion. Janne Siren says he wants the public to take ownership of the expansion to make it communitywide.

The expansion is around a year away from digging a hole in the ground and $35 million short of what is needed for construction and the endowment to make operations possible. The plan has cleared another hurdle, with the Common Council approving a series of bureaucratic changes for the expansion.

Now, the big challenge is money for what will be the Albright-Knox-Gundlach when the expansion and construction is complete in 2021. Siren says the latest city approvals give the expansion credibility, although no cash.

"Credibility as we pursue the funding gap that we are still facing, which is about $35 million or so," Siren says. "One of the things that frankly is a concern for me is that right now the project has been rocketed and propelled forward by a group of very generous and patriotic family members of the Albright-Knox."

Much of what has been raised so far has come from large gifts, especially from Jeffrey Gundlach. When the expansion is done, the gallery will be the Albright-Knox-Gundlach. Siren says to meet the goal for work to start in a year, the art gallery needs more public participation and more sense the gallery is everybody's.

Credit Michael Mroziak / WBFO News
A view of part of the mural that now covers two walls on a building at the intersection of Jersey and Niagara Streets.

"It's not just about the dollar values so much as it is about a sense of collective ownership," he says. "I want all Western New Yorkers to be members of this project so that when we look back to this historic moment in our evolution, we can all see our names on that campus and in those buildings because it will change us for decades to come."

Siren says he needs the donations to shift from traditional supporters of the gallery to average members of the community. The street art the gallery is increasingly installing around the area is part of helping to attract newcomers.

"Our public art, our other participation in community activity throughout Western New York, it's all about the fact that we really want to be a museum, not museum-like as a dusty place where mummies gather dust, but as a mouseion, as a house of inspiration, as a place of inspiration for all members of our community," he says.

Street art like Robert Indiana's NUMBERS One Through ZERO is now on display on Wilkeson Pointe on the Outer Harbor. The hope is for a return to the drive from some who visit the Indiana work and others.

Credit Avery Schneider / WBFO News
Robert Indiana's "NUMBERS ONE through ZERO" on display at Wilkeson Pointe on Buffalo's Outer Harbor.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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