Summer excursions with the Burchfield Penney Docents by guest writer Jane Rube

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Burchfield Penney Art Center is thrilled to launch our third Docent Class this October. When these remarkable volunteers are not conducting tours or working on other projects, they visit other museums and sites together (including the Andy Warhol Museum, Falling Water and Kentuck Knob this summer). Jane Rube, Landmark Docent, reviewed a trip to Lockport to visit the Market Street Art Center:

Several docents with staff member Mary Kozub had the opportunity to tour the Market Street Art Center in Lockport this summer. The invitation to visit this multipurpose facility came from Sister Jeanne Schragel, an art instructor at this 10 year old community facility located in the Lockport neighborhood known as Lowertown, a National Historic District. Staff members and volunteers accompanied our group on the tour and were eager to share their pride in this center. This nonprofit organization is housed in a 150 year old, three-story red brick building formerly the headquarters of the Western Block Company. Across the street from the Erie Canal, where pleasure boats could be seen, we could understand why this location contributed to the success of the manufacture of block and tackle in Lockport where there was easy access to shipping ports along the Erie Canal.

Two area residents, Sally Bisher and Art Hilger, purchased this empty group of buildings with the intent to transform it into an art space that could be used by all ages. The Market Street Art Center opened in 2001 and contains gallery space on the first floor for "established artists," 20 studios for rental with about 30 artists working in a variety of media throughout the building, a gift shop, and classroom space with galleries for "emerging artists" on the second floor. The building retains the structure of a manufacturing site with examples of the molds used to make the blocks and tackles displayed throughout the corridors. There is an original elevator that was operated in the past by water power. Steel beams and brick walls are exposed. The third floor, unused at present, has massive wooden beams, wooden floors, and evidence of years of use.

Sister Jeanne who took her students on a tour of the Burchfield Penny Art Center showed us the paintings her students created incorporating the tondo of Charles E. Burchfield's Mid-June (1917-44) into their watercolors. Classes are offered for students of all ages including those with special needs. Another instructor, Don Little, will offer a fall class on "Looking at and Understanding Great Art" which includes a tour of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery where Mr. Little is a docent.

The executive director, Linda Van Buskirk, described her vision for the future with a museum on the third floor of this complex highlighting the techniques and skills required to manufacture goods in America in the last last half of the 19th century. There are many possibilities for the creative reuse of this historic complex which will enrich the lives of those who visit the Market Street Art Center.

We wish to thank the staff and volunteers for their time and hospitality.

— Jane Rube
Landmark Docent

For more information on the Burchfield Penney Docents, email Mary.