In 1998, guest curator John Baker along with the Burchfield Penney staff organized the exhibition Sharing Our View to showcase the diverse range of black visual artists working in Buffalo. Following its presentation at the Center, the exhibition traveled to New Mount Ararat Temple of Prayer, a church and community center on the East Side to inaugurate East Side/West Side, the Museum Outreach Program. Centered on fostering community engagement and accessibility to the arts for Buffalo’s inner-city youth, the program aimed “to expose children to art – by having them create their own work, letting them meet artists from the community, and getting them into galleries.” Youth participated in several activities facilitated by exhibiting artists that included games, a Kente weaving project, art-making workshops, and an interactive computer game.
25 years later, a transformative approach to community engagement and expanding access to the arts for young people remains central to the Burchfield Penney mission. An increasingly tumultuous social, economic, and political climate has renewed a sense of urgency in artistic expression as a means for youth to navigate and process these uncertain times. Using the original exhibition and Useum Outreach Program as a starting point, Sharing Our View: 25th Anniversary celebrates the ways the program’s core mission has evolved with the growth of the museum, and the intergenerational legacy of black artists who continue the important work of cultivating meaningful connections through art across Buffalo’s diverse communities. The exhibition features artwork by the artists included in the original show as well as related archival material. In celebration of both past and present, the exhibition also features several contemporary artists who continue to cultivate opportunities for connection through their own artwork, arts education, and community engagement practices. This is exemplified by their involvement with organizations such as WNY Urban Arts Collective, Buffalo’s Own, Inc., Get Fokus’d Productions, Princessa’s Studio and Art Gallery, Buffalo Arts Studio, the Buffalo Public Schools, and the Burchfield Penney Art Center, among others.
Additionally, John Baker has facilitated a community mural project that like the original program, connects students with local artists and cultural leaders to encourage them to tell their own stories through the visual arts. As a co-founder and current president of the WNY Urban Arts Collective, Baker has expressed a longstanding commitment to his community and to supporting emerging artists. His efforts in leading this project resulted in a collaborative recruitment process with Buffalo Public Schools teachers to encourage participation from students with a demonstrated interest in the arts, as well as transportation support from the NFTA. The young cohort of BPS students learned about the tradition of storytelling with the help of the Tradition Keepers: The Black Storytellers of Western New York. From there, they worked alongside exhibiting artists and WNY Urban Arts Collective members John Baker, James Cooper III, and Princessa S. Williams to conceptualize, design, and produce a collaborative piece. Their creative process was further supported by Burchfield Penney Associate Museum Educator Michaela Worosz. The piece reflects their own interests and connects to broader conversations rooted in history that also imagine new possibilities for the future. Collectively, the exhibition and mural project brings together generations of artists to inspire connection, conversation, education, and understanding.
Sharing Our View: 25th Anniversary is presented through the generosity of Dr. Grant Golden & Ms. Deborah Goldman. For their continued support, we also gratefully acknowledge our generous Burchfield Penney members.
 Paula Voell, “My Art Will Go On,” The Buffalo News Next, June 9, 1998, Courtesy of the Burchfield Penney Art Center Archives