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Pandemic or not, arts, education and recreation remain focus of Kenan Center

The Kenan Center wears many hats as a small arts organization in Lockport. It’s home to a gallery, a theater, a Montessori School and recreation programming. And coming out of the pandemic, it’s looking to grow.


"We did not stop," said Kenan Center Development Manager Parrish Gibbons Herzog. "We had certain events that were canceled, but we kept the majority of our staff on.”

When the pandemic hit last year, Herzog knew the facility had to adapt. So she expedited plans for in-house video production.  

"I, myself as a staff member, learned how to create videos, edit videos, do online streaming, work with equipment that was more than just my phone,” Herzog said.

With some grant funding, Herzog said the Kenan Center was able to acquire improved cameras, speakers and lights early on into the pandemic. That allowed for a quick transition into high quality virtual programming. 

“Whenever there's an exhibit, I go through and I do a virtual tour," she said. "I've been doing that for a year now throughout COVID. And we continue to do it with our current exhibits. Because we recognize that it makes the Kenan Center more accessible to everyone.”

In addition to virtual tours, a music series called ‘Coffee with Kenan’ was launched. 

“We were still able to pay and support musicians through an online live stream,” Herzog said.

Typically, a summer at the Kenan Center would include youth programming. That wasn’t a possibility with COVID. Herzog said that’s when they launched their ‘KARE’ kits. 

“Which was an acronym for 'Kenan Arts Recreation Education' kits. Kind of worked out nicely," Herzog said. "But those kits included a bunch of activities that families could do together at home. So we were finding ways to still, instead of just online and virtual opportunities, do more physical things as well in a safe way to ensure that our community still had access to those three things-- arts, education and recreation.”

Now, one summer later, Herzog said the Kenan Center is seeing support now more than ever. 

“We hit numbers that we have never hit before at the Kenan Center. We had our highest annual appeal that just closed two months ago because we kept on everybody's radar throughout the past year,” she said.

So what’s next for the Kenan Center? Herzog envisions expanded recreational outdoor activities and a continuation of what they’ve done in the past. 

“We're excited to continue to give artists opportunities on our campus that can't be canceled," Herzog said. "The name of the game these days is that we're planning things, that if another pandemic or something else came, they can't cancel it.”


The Kenan Center, which sits on 25 acres in Lockport, will return to more outdoor programming this summer.


In tandem with the Kenan Center’s American Craftsman Festival,artists will transform the Kenan Gardens & Grounds July 10 & 11 for an event called ‘Garten.’


Four community submissions were selected to take part this year, including a work entitled Funnions. Herzog explains the work by Ellen Martin. 

“What her submission was, was she was taking allium, a type of flower, but making fake ones calling them ‘Funnions’. And they're small pom poms on sticks that she sticks right into the ground and she made 5000 of them," Herzog said. "So 5000 of these fake fun flowers will be dispersed throughout the orchard area of the Kenan Center drawing a really big impact. Our orchard gardens and our grass area will, as a result, have a lot of different colors and fun interaction for people to walk through.”
More information on upcoming events can be found here.


Nick Lippa leads our Arts & Culture Coverage, and is also the lead reporter for the station's Mental Health Initiative, profiling the struggles and triumphs of those who battle mental health issues and the related stigma that can come from it.