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David Moog (b. 1944), Anthony L. Bannon, 2015; Archival inkjet print, 20 x 15 inches; Gift of the artist, copyright David Moog, 2015

David Moog (b. 1944), Anthony L. Bannon, 2015; Archival inkjet print, 20 x 15 inches; Gift of the artist, copyright David Moog, 2015

Anthony Bannon Announces His Retirement

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Dr. Anthony Bannon, two-time director of the Burchfield Penney Art Center at SUNY Buffalo State, today announced to The Center Board of Trustees his plans for retirement on July 1, timed for the end of The Center’s 50th Anniversary celebrations.

“I would like to express my great appreciation to Tony Bannon for his more than 16 years of dedicated service—over two terms—to the Burchfield Penney Art Center at Buffalo State." said Dr. Katherine Conway-Turner, president of SUNY Buffalo State. "His wonderful leadership has raised the profile of the Burchfield Penney, and expanded the reach of The Center through a number of new community partnerships and education programs. We look forward to formally celebrating his career this summer at the Burchfield Penney’s 50th anniversary art auction and gala in June. ”

Carol Kociela, Chair of the Burchfield Penney Art Center Board of Trustees commented: “Over the past five years the Burchfield Penney Art Center has had the good fortune to be led by Anthony Bannon. His return in 2012 re-energized and brought new focus to the Burchfield Penney as a cultural Center with programming in poetry, music, literature, dance and more. Emphasis on scholarship has come with commitment to archives and publications—and national focus on Charles E. Burchfield enhances Western New York. He has left his mark a second time! Thank you, Tony!”

“I couldn’t imagine a better exit line. We will have completed this anniversary year with gratifying public response to our series of events, so I figured I should take this opportunity to step down on an institutional high,” Bannon said. “This five year run as director has been a gift, working with such a diverse, hospitable, energized and intellectually accomplished staff—and a remarkably committed group of Trustees.”

Bannon had retired once before, in 2012, after 16 years as the 7th and longest serving director of George Eastman House, the International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester—but he was asked to consider returning for a three to five year engagement at the Burchfield Penney Art Center, where he had served as its second director from 1985–1996. The highlight of that first tour was the transformative gift from Charles Rand Penney of Western New York art, most notably a significant collection of art by Charles E. Burchfield. The gift also included a leadership collection of Roycroft Community objects and other art, craft, and design objects by Western New York artists.

Shortly after his return, Bannon and Center lead curators proposed to Peter Fleischmann, then Board chair, a development of what became known as a unique mixed media installation called The Front Yard, approved by Center architect Robert Siegel as “the culmination of our vision” for that space. It consists of three towers designed to project sound and image upon the face of The Center, with a computer-based interpretation of the weather. In a novel SUNY collaboration, developed in concert with Brian Milbrand of SUNY Buffalo State with his students and designed by Isabella Brito under the supervision of Brad Wales of University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning, and with technical input from the Center for Electronic Arts at Alfred University, led by Peer Bode. It has attracted international attention, as has the Charles E. Burchfield Award.
Robert Siegel received the first Charles E. Burchfield Award for himself and his late partner, Charles Gwathmey. The award is granted to artists who have made significant contribution to the values of a sustainable environment. Subsequent awards were granted to Charles Wright, as seated U.S. Poet Laureate, and last year to Tom Toles, Pulitzer Prize editorial cartoonist, and to Gretchen Toles, an environmental activist committed to public spaces.

During the past five years, Center staff and trustees worked with Bannon to enhance The Center’s national and international reputation through collection development, interpretation, and sharing; guided by a new comprehensive, facilitated strategic plan and demographic survey.

The Center diversified its award winning educational services led by Mary Kozub in the visionary spirit of Charles E. Burchfield and the founding principles of the first Director Dr. Edna M. Lindemann.

“Dr. Anthony Bannon is certainly among the most enlightened, prolific and important museum directors in the nation,” said Mark Schaming, Director of the New York State Museum, with oversight over all museums in New York State. “In the course of his distinguished career he has made a powerful, lasting impact not only at the Burchfield Penney Art Center, but at museums and cultural institutions throughout New York State. As a transformative leader, he has set an inspiring standard for innovation and collaborations for all who hope to follow in his footsteps. I congratulate Dr. Bannon on his exceptional career and thank him for his tremendous contributions to museums and cultural education.”

During Bannon’s tenure, The Center gained admission to the museum leadership organization, the Association of Art Museum Directors, and secured re-accreditation “with distinction” from the American Alliance of Museums, which this year awarded The Center its top prize in design for annual reports and inclusion in the category of innovative publications.

The Center’s collection has notably developed its holdings of watercolor paintings, drawings, and sketches by Charles E. Burchfield, and with its acquisition of Burchfield archival holdings from the Burchfield family, it now can lay claim to serving its public as the largest dedicated museum in the world, as well as the eleventh largest museum on a college or university campus in the United States.

Notable acquisitions include more than 30 works by Burchfield, almost 200 photographs by Marion Faller, 100 photographs by David Moog, and important works by Philip Burke, Ellen Carey, Harold Cohen, Seymour Drumlevitch, Alexander Levy, Robert Longo and Steve Miller. Through the patronage of Howard and Carole Tanenbaum, The Center acquired the now oldest work in the collection when a photograph from 1843 was donated.

Additionally, The Center acquired more than 300 objects by or related to Clara Sipprell, the famed pictorial and portrait photographer, who began her career in East Aurora, as well as more than a million archival objects reflecting the achievements of Artpark, the New York State Park for Artists, in Lewiston.

The Center’s has accelerated its commitment to student internships and artists residencies. Photographer Janelle Lynch and painter Phillip Koch, but influenced by Burchfield’s spirt, words and pictures, created new bodies of work and expanded the scholarship on Burchfield in new ways.

A commitment to scholarship and to the highest of preservation values at the Burchfield Penney was lauded with an award as a leader in archival service by the New York State Archives, in part a recognition of The Center’s welcoming policy to receive recreational scholars, students, and senior scholars from around the world. The award was accepted by Tullis Johnson, curator and manager of the Charles E. Burchfield Archives, and Heather Gring, archivist. The Center education department led by Mary Kozub is now reaching out to more than ten associations serving the challenged or marginalized, as well as students from a variety of schools, public and private, with attendance increased by 25% in this year alone.

Ambitious program re-organization called for increased emphasis on music, which has developed to near consistent sell-outs; emphasis on poetry, celebrated by a book, “Mortals and Immortals,” publishing work by the lauded poets who have read during the past 35 years at The Center; and the presentation of a series of community building lectures, films, and panels, called “Ideas Prime.” Three-day festivals, called “Launches,” occurring several times a year, projected themes with nationally known presenters boasting a connection to Buffalo—on music, the word, the image, and dance, with newly appointed dance curator, Jon Lehrer and an on-going collaboration with his company. Other Launches concentrated on the work of the late radical illustrator Spain Rodriguez, with another on the environment, to accompany a book and exhibition, “Blistering Vision,” by Tullis Johnson, featuring an introduction by the estimable conceptual art critic, Lucy Lippard. The growth in program sophistication and diversity is led by Don Metz, associate director and program curator, who has augmented programming through collaboration with artists in residence, such as Charles Haupt, former concertmaster for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and Irene Haupt, a photo artist, who design the series, “A Musical Feast.”

"On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff of the American Alliance of Museums, it is a pleasure for me to extend congratulations and best wishes to Tony on his retirement. We are proud to honor him for his commitment and service to the museum field as a long-standing AAM member," said Laura L. Lott, President and CEO, American Alliance of Museums. "We also commend Tony for his leadership role in achieving accreditation for the Burchfield Penney Art Center, demonstrating your high level of professionalism in all respects and reinforcing the institution’s tremendous benefit to society, for forming The International Center for Watercolor, for your active effort to bring in scholars, and so much more. We congratulate Tony and his team on exceptional work." 

Bannon brought a parallel emphasis on unique exhibitions including artists not commonly remembered as Western New Yorkers, such as Douglas Kirkland, the dean of Hollywood photographers, and Philip Burke, among the master magazine illustrators in the U.S. and abroad; together with experiments through an alliance created by Bannon and Metz to work with Alfred University’s Center for Electronic Arts.

The Center also presented challenging ideas in exhibition form, such as a complex accounting of Burchfield’s orientation to sound accompanied by a vinyl record produced and distributed by Righteous Babe Records; and exhibitions directed toward environmental as well as aesthetic issues, such as work by Alberto Rey, Jozef Bajus, and the late Jack Drummer. Scott Propeack’s leadership with these exhibitions and in creating an open call for art installed in a gallery-filling barge construction—and docents curating their favorite works from the collection. Bannon worked to open the doors to the unique experience. “This is art, after all,” he said. “One of a kind. It should be a strong expression.”

Fine exhibitions led to an increasing call for travelling exhibitions from The Center, among them a selection of iconic Burchfield’s co-curated by Nancy Weekly of The Center with the Brandywine Museum, and “Weather Event,” co-curated by Tullis Johnson of The Center and Dr. Stephen Vermette, a SUNY Buffalo State climatologist, at the New York State Museum. Presently there are six Center exhibitions either now on loan or awaiting installation elsewhere.

Bannon championed the creation of books that re-visioned the collection, for example on Burchfield as an environmentalist and as a sound artist, all designed by White Bicycle. This award-winning run of publications has been led by Kathleen Heyworth, marketing and communications director. He also led consideration of the collection in 12 special concentrations where The Center served as the collection of record for a certain artist or arts institution, a consideration developing from Chief Curator and Associate Director Scott Propeack’s organization of data and works of art that represented the full sweep of accomplishments in Western New York, the Arts Legacy Project and Living Legacy Project.

“This is a way to signal the diversity of interests a regional and dedicated museum can enjoy. Charles Burchfield’s love of poetry and literature—and his own writing—his fondness for music are just examples of the range of interests we can address in his name and in collaboration with scholars from Buffalo State and around the country,” Bannon reflected. “Similarly, our range of regional interests can allow us to explore the use of even discarded materials to create sound, perhaps a minimalist installation. We can dig deeply into fine crafts, particularly through the patronage of Sylvia L. Rosen or wildly mixed media with Western New York’s arts community . The Center enjoys a unique position to be bold yet respectful of the past; to be cutting edge while serving those who practice watercolor through our International Center for Watercolor, which was initiated with curatorial associate Kathy Gaye Shiroki.

Communications and income fill out the picture. The Center’s website and other social network outlets are gaining at 20% to 30% each year; earned income derived from admissions, the Museum Store and Burchfield’s Café, special events, and general fundraising also are rising each year, led by COO Carolyn Morris Hunt and Development Director Jennifer Merlette.

Bannon lectures frequently, most recently at the FOTOfusion festival in Palm Beach, and forth coming as the keynote for the Hermitage Artists’ Retreat annual Greenfield Prize celebration. During his tenure at The Center, he completed a 10-year service as board chair of the Lucie Awards, often called the Academy Awards in Photography. He also was granted one of the highest honors in photography, the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain’s J. Dudley Johnson medal for excellence in history and criticism of photography.

His recent book titles include Picturing Asia: Doubletake (Asia Society Hong Kong), Steve McCurry’s Iconic Photographs (Phaidon), Steve McCurry (PhaidonMonika Merva: The City of Children (Kehrer), Cocalari: Alfredo D’Amato (Postcart), Affinity of Form, Photographs by Stanford Lipsey (with Louis Grochos, Powerhouse), Night Garden: Amanda Marchand (Datz), Roman Loranc: Absolution—50 Photographs from Europe (Photography West Graphics), Roger Eberhard: Wilted Country (with Benedict Wells, Scheidegger and Spiess).

Bannon will remain in Buffalo, complete several books in progress, and assist on select exhibitions with Center curators.

Center trustees will soon commence a national search and appoint interim leadership to serve until the selection of the fifth director to lead The Center into its 51st year. Dr. Bannon will be celebrated at the Burchfield Penney’s Art Center’s art Auction and Gala on Saturday, June 17.