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Art Barge in Buffalo State's The Record

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Burchfield barge to set sail with painted canvas
in Buffalo State's The Record by Mike Provenzano 
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An unusual art project scheduled to tour New York State by way of the Erie Canal will get its start right here at SUNY Buffalo State by way of the Burchfield Penney Art Center.

The proposed project would float an entire art gallery down the Erie Canal. The journey would take a modified barge from Buffalo across New York State and down the Hudson River to New York City.

The project will commence in July when construction of the barge begins in the main gallery of the Burchfield Penney. The barge is then expected to hit the water for the first time in the summer of 2015. The Trans Empire Canal Corporation is steering the four phases of the project. The first phase includes the building of the barge itself, followed by the round-trip journey from Buffalo to Brooklyn and finally a permanent residence downtown at Canalside.

According to TECCorp’s mission statement, they intend to use this mobile gallery as a way to use art as a tool that creates community and cultural connections across New York State. The plan is to moor the barge at stops along the canal to connect art institutions, artists and audiences.
This mission resonates with Burchfield Penney curator Scott Propeack.
“Whether it’s a faculty member that wants to write about the economic history of the canal or a student who wants to show their artwork, the underlying theme here is conversation and community.”

While the final three stages of the project are still up in the air due to funding — about $20,000 has been raised so far out of an estimated $1 million that the project is expected to cost — the first phase at the Burchfield Penney is definitely happening," Propeack said.

“The Burchfield Penney plans to be involved with the project throughout all phases, but as a group we have planned the exhibition as the beginning of the project and we would assess moving forward with the canal trip after phase one,” Propeack said. “Ultimately the remaining phases of the project will in total be a lot more complicated and need a lead organization to be realized. So far, any planning for the future has included and been built off of Burchfield Penney relationships across the state.”
Dr. Olivier Delrieu-Schulze, the artist from whom this idea all started, said while the other phases look promising, the reason it is a multi-year project is that there are a lot of “ifs” associated with it. But that hasn’t stopped him from envisioning the grand scale of what the project could become.

“The idea behind doing the show and going to New York City and back is to build the conversation between New York City and Buffalo and cities in between like Rochester and Syracuse,” Delrieu-Schulze said. “In the long term, if things work out, it would be really interesting to expand the project.”

Delrieu-Schulze sees the traveling aspect of the project as an excellent facilitator of conversation internally between New York State cities, and externally as an even larger conversation between other Great Lakes cities.
Greg Velasquez, a printmaking senior from Buffalo, is excited about the project, but remains cautious about how Buffalo State students can directly benefit from its roots on campus.

“To answer this bluntly, there will most likely not be any noticeable impact on the lives of Buffalo State artists or the art department,” Velasquez said. “Unfortunately, I have yet to see much of a connection between the fine arts department and the Burchfield at all.”

Delrieu-Schulze asks that anyone who wishes to have their work showcased on the barge project contact him at with samples and a statement regarding their work. He encourages the Buffalo State community to attend the public forums held periodically about the project. The next public forum is scheduled for Feb. 27.

“Whether it’s a faculty member that wants to write about the economic history of the canal or a student who wants to show their artwork, the underlying theme here is conversation and community,” Delrieu-Schulze said. “So the hope is that there’s going to be opportunities for people to think about that and be able to share what they know.”

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