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UB Art Galleries' 'Restoration Stories' takes visual journeys through mental health

Exhibition bring community to collage works

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Mixed media is taking the form of powerful expressionism through a new community collaboration downtown.

“Restoration Stories,” an exhibit featuring collage works from Buffalo’s Restoration Society, Inc., is on display at the Medical Campus’ Connect Gallery. The work is an effort between the galleries, local artist Terri Katz Kasimov and Restoration Society, a mental health support and resource center.

Restoration Society members, who began taking workshops with Kasimov this past August, worked with the artist to impart their life stories through a series of collages.

Some members never considered themselves artists and others had some creative experience. The workshop helped bring color and newly imagined creations to members’ items like journals and pictures. If workshop participants didn’t want to destroy their personal documents for the collages, the galleries would help them replicate or better represent their items for artistic use.

Hannah Quaintance, a Ph.D. student in the anthropology department, curated the exhibit through her assistantship with the Art Galleries’ Cravens Collection. After noticing the distance between the Restoration Society’s location and UB’s Anderson Gallery, separated by one block, she hoped to use the spatiality as a way to build a relationship with the organization.

“It’s a community that doesn’t often have inclusive activities offered to them, especially for their opportunity to exhibit their work,” Quaintance said. “So it’s really exciting to give the participants a sense of value in their works and show it to a larger public audience.”

Aside from artistic experiences, many of the members’ life experiences vary as well. A lot of the work featured in the gallery comes from reflection, with some works tackling themes of loss while others tackle homelessness through visualization.

“So it was a lot of working with different people and for Terri [Katz Kasimov], she was really great at conducting the conversations,” Quaintance said. “Her whole idea is there are no mistakes in art so she was really encouraging of everyone, no matter what sort of marks they were making on a paper. It was meaningful and significant.”

Robert Scalise, acting director and deputy director of the UB Art Galleries, said the galleries like to bring in artists such as Kasimov as they stimulate creativity on projects like “Restoration Stories.”

“From working with Terri in the past, she has done a series on the Holocaust. She’s also done something on 9/11, when her son was working down there at the time,” Scalise said. “So I know her work itself is personal but it is also very narrative. I thought the people in Restoration would really be keen on Terri’s journey as an artist.”

Three years ago, Scalise helped bring the Connect Gallery to fruition when working on a project at the Conventus Center.

Scalise initially viewed the gallery, guided by Ciminelli and Conventus partners, as an opportunity to put together a space where art could be used as an educational tool, especially for students looking to utilize off-campus galleries.

The gallery will now host the curatorial effort of a student for the first time.

“Sometimes there is a stigma that museums are not so approachable, but projects like this, tying in community members like Restoration Society, really strengthens what we do and links us with different constituents in the area,” Scalise said.

“Restoration Stories: Collage Works by the Restoration Society, Inc. Community” will be on view until next fall at the Conventus Center, located at 1001 Main St.

Benjamin Blanchet is the senior arts editor and can be reached at benjamin.blanchet@ubspectrum.com.


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