In 1983 the institution was renamed the Burchfield Art Center to support its multi-arts focus. Committing to a full range of visual expression, including craft art, architecture, and design the Burchfield Council formally accepted an expanded mission in 1988.
Led by its second director, Anthony Bannon, Ph.D., who served from 1985-96, the Burchfield Penney began a decade of significant growth. Expansions of exhibition space, archives and collection storage, and administrative offices were accompanied by increased fiscal and community support.
Between 1991 and 1994, the Burchfield Art Center received a series of gifts from Charles Rand Penney, including the largest private collection of works by Charles E. Burchfield; publications and hand-crafted domestic objects from the Roycroft community; and historic and contemporary works of craft and fine art.
These collections, which have been used in numerous exhibitions, educational programs, and publications, provided the Burchfield Penney with invaluable national exposure. In 1994, the institution was renamed the Burchfield Penney Art Center to honor the significance of these gifts and their contribution to the museum’s mission.
Community collaborations, including those that led to the development of the Elmwood Museum District and the Olmsted Crescent, the public art projects Herd About Buffalo and Art On Wheels and a dynamic exhibition schedule, illustrate the center’s growth. The Burchfield Penney began a new phase of service to a national and international audience with its third director, Ted Pietrzak, who served from 1998-2010.
The most recent chapter of the center’s history began in 1998 when William J. Magavern II proposed a new museum building for the Burchfield Penney with a significant lead gift. After a decade of planning, fundraising, and construction, the new Burchfield Penney Art Center, designed by Gwathemy Siegel & Associates, opened in November, 2008. The New York Times included Buffalo, NY and the Burchfield Penney Art Center as one of the “Top 44 Places in the World to Visit” the following year.
In 2012 it was announced that Anthony Bannon would return to the center as director after 16 years as director of the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester, NY.
The center celebrated its 50 year anniversary in 2016. The year was highlighted by groundbreaking exhibitions, dynamic programming, aggressive collecting and celebration of the cultural legacy of the region.
Executive director Tony Bannon retired from the Center on July 1, 2017, at the conclusion of the 50th anniversary celebrations. On April 4, 2019, the Burchfield Penney announced the appointment of Dennis Kois as its executive director.
In addition to its visual arts offerings, the Burchfield Penney currently presents a robust slate of concerts, literary readings, lectures, symposia, workshops, and special events. This diverse programming provides artists, students, scholars, collectors, and the general public with opportunities to learn and exchange ideas about how regional art reflects American aesthetics and culture.