A tale as old as time - funding for the arts insufficient in Buffalo

Laid off Carnegie Art Center employee a microcosm of Buffalo's problematic priorities

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Echoing an all too familiar refrain, the board of directors for North Tonawanda’s Carnegie Art Center announced they laid off their last paid employee due to a lack of public funding.

Despite receiving $343,000 from the federal government to repair and update the center, which is over a century old, the newly renovated facility now faces an uncertain future. With no money to fund operations, or to pay employees to run them, the building – which is owned by the city of Tonawanda – may end up housing meetings and events, rather than art exhibits.

This would be a loss for the entire community. As Buffalo begins to pick itself up after years of economic decline, the arts cannot be left behind, forgotten amidst the industrial and technological development spurred on by Governor Cuomo’s highly-touted “Buffalo Billion.”

Residents of Buffalo will undoubtedly benefit from the employment opportunities generated by the influx of corporate headquarters, health care institutes and research facilities. The development of the waterfront and construction of new parks will offer the community additional opportunities for recreation and leisure. Though all of this is fantastic for Buffalo’s image and its residents, the arts remain overlooked and underfunded.

The shuttering of the Carnegie Arts Center is emblematic of this issue. Though the federal government stepped in to help, local and statewide organizations have turned away from the center’s financial woes.

North Tonawanda has more than 30,000 residents and now, one art gallery (though if, as Google Maps claims, tattoo parlors qualify as galleries, then the region is host to an impressive three cultural meccas). If Buffalo can afford multiple multi-million sports arenas, it doesn’t seem unrealistic to ask for that the region offer a museum to citizen ratio greater than 30,000 to one.

The efforts of the Carnegie’s volunteer board have been nothing short of inspiring, as they’ve kept the center functioning for over a year despite running solely on reserve funds. It’s time for the community to recognize their work with a little financial reciprocation. It won’t be just the volunteers who benefit, but all of the residents of North Tonawanda.

As investors pour billions of dollars into luxury housing, casino construction and waterfront development and while Bills fans enjoy the $130 million renovations at Ralph Wilson Stadium, at the very least, the Buffalo community can give a few moments of their time – if they won’t give a few dollars – to lament the loss of the Carnegie Art Center.

email: editorial@ubspectrum.com