The Artpark Archival Collection at the Burchfield Penney Art Center is Now Available to Researchers
The Burchfield Penney Art Center at SUNY Buffalo State College is pleased to announce the completion of the 403-page finding aid for the Artpark Archival Collection donated by the Earl W. Brydges Artpark State Park in 2013. This extensive archive of over 118 linear feet of textual, photographic, and audio-visual material documents one of the most impactful publicly-funded arts initiatives of the late 20th century.
From 1974 - 1991, Artpark provided unprecedented opportunities for the creation of avant-garde environmental land art, equitable access to internationally renowned theater and musical performances, and hands-on art classes on everything from ceramics to quilting. In addition to the 2013 donation from the Earl W. Brydges Artpark State Park, the Burchfield Penney Art Center also holds the archives of former Artpark administrators David Midland and David Katzive.
Sandra Q. Firmin, Curator of the 2010 exhibition “Artpark: 1974 - 1984” writes of this collection:
“The Artpark Archives is an essential resource for researchers interested in the significant changes occurring in the arts, in economics, and in politics in the United States during the 1970s and 80s. Artpark represented a somewhat quixotic ideal to bring all the arts together. The rich audiovisual, marketing, and contractual materials provide a rare glimpse of spirited artist-public interactions, artists at work, and ephemeral site-specific artworks and performances. The full scope of contemporary scholarship must include institutions like Artpark that were unique in providing vital financial and professional support. Its legacy endures with numerous art organizations across the country committed to funding experimental site-specific and community-based work.”
This collection will provide illumination and further contextualization of many facets of American Art History. Artpark is currently a 154-acre State Park along the Niagara River Gorge, located on the American side of the American-Canadian border in Lewiston, NY. It was initially created to develop tourism around local historic attractions and revitalize the area following late 1950s development of the New York State Power Authority power plant in Niagara Falls. The Artist-in-Residence or Visual Arts program (1974-1991) was a major part of this park revitalization, dedicated in its first year to the memory of Robert Smithson and requiring artists to practice art in a public laboratory setting. Original artist residencies in the Program in Visual Arts in 1974 included nearly thirty groups or individuals participating in periods from one to ten weeks in various media, including film, video, poetry, music, performance, land art, and sculpture. Artists such as Nancy Holt, Charles Simmons, Dale Chihuly, Sam Gilliam, Chris Burden, and Gordon Matta-Clark are just a few of the artists who conducted artist residencies at Artpark.
In 2013, Artpark donated their rarely-seen archival holdings to the Burchfield Penney Art Center. For the next eight years, Archivist Heather Gring led the team of processing staff and interns on the monumental task of rehousing, appraisal, arrangement and description of the 220 box collection, which is comprised of over 180 boxes of textual records, approximately 70,000 images, and hundreds of legacy AV objects and oversized materials. In 2021, the 400+ page finding aid to the collection was completed, which includes item-level identification of participating artists in over 75% of the image collection.
Archivist Heather Gring states,
“it is difficult to put into words what a monumental undertaking the processing of this archival collection has been. If not for the herculean efforts of all the interns and staff who rehoused tens of thousands of slides and negatives, conducted detailed description on countless files, and moved hundreds of boxes all over WNY to get this collection here, this incredible part of American Art History would have been lost to obscurity. I am grateful beyond measure for their collective efforts.”
This project was made possible in part by a grant from the Documentary Heritage Program of the New York State Archives, a program of the State Education Department.
Watch a video about the scope of the Artpark Archival collection here: https://vimeo.com/577296211
ABOUT THE BURCHFIELD PENNEY ART CENTER
Established in 1966 on the campus of SUNY Buffalo State, the Burchfield Penney Art Center is dedicated to the art and vision of renowned American artist Charles E. Burchfield (1893–1967) and the art and artists of Buffalo and the Western New York region. The Archives of the Burchfield Penney Art Center hold the primary-source collections of over 40 individual artists, including the extensive archives of Burchfield, which encompass over 25,000 sketches, 10,000 pages of journals, thousands of pages of correspondence and his hand-made painting indices. The Archives also hold the collections of 12 historic arts organizations, over 9,000 subject files on Western New York artists and arts organizations, and a library of over 1,000 books about the arts in Western New York.
To schedule a research visit, contact Archivist Heather Gring at firstname.lastname@example.org
The press release was written by Summer 2021 Archives intern Sophie Barner. Sophie is an Art History and Art Museum Studies student at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA. She is currently working as an Archival Processing Intern at the Burchfield Penney and an Administrative and Curatorial Assistant at CEPA Gallery. She has previously worked at the Castellani Art Museum, the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center, and Assemble, a community center for arts and technology.
The "Exploring the Artpark Archives" video is by Summer 2021 Communications intern Taylor Koster. Taylor Koster is a 22 year old student attending SUNY Buffalo State College to pursue a degree in graphic design with a minor in photography.