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Burchfield Penney Partners with Assembly House 150 to Create Innovative Education Gallery

Monday, October 19, 2020

The Burchfield Penney Art Center at SUNY Buffalo State College has gained a transformative partner as part of an ambitious plan to grow its education programs and double the space devoted to  public education. The Center and Assembly House 150 (AH150) today jointly announced a formal agreement between the two institutions. AH150 has been selected by the Center to renovate the education galleries by designing and constructing a one-of-a-kind architectural installation that will inspire creativity and allow for greater community engagement. The project will double the amount of space on the Center’s first floor dedicated to education and school groups, and support a plan by the Center to make drop-in art-making for families available every day. Funded by a $225,000 gift from the Cameron and Jane Baird Foundation, the Center plans to complete the project during 2021.

Founded in 2015 by Dennis Maher, a nationally renowned artist and professor of architecture at University at Buffalo, Assembly House 150 (AH150) is an experiential learning center that transforms lives and the built environment through art, design and construction. Guided by the artistic practice of Maher the AH150 team—including local tradespeople, design/build specialists, community members, and former and current students in AH150’s flagship Society for the Advancement of Construction Related Arts (SACRA) training program—will renovate 1,800 square feet of space at the Burchfield Penney that will be both a unique, walk-in work of installation art while also meeting the Center’s requirements to serve school groups and families. The project will include flexible furnishings, cabinets, architectural components, display devices, and sculptural objects.

“Everyone wins with the pairing of two institutions with a shared vision of learning high on our agendas,” said Dennis Kois, Burchfield Penney executive director. “This re-envisioning and doubling of our Education spaces in partnership with AH150 will result in Buffalo becoming home to one of the most innovative spaces for art museum education nationwide.”

“This project is a synthesis of art and experiential education engaging a diverse array of people, which is how art becomes meaningfully woven into the fabric of everyday life,” said Dennis Maher, AH150 executive director. “The renovation will also allow us to rehire past SACRA graduates to advance their skills. We hope to acquire even more public and private construction projects and include under-represented communities in the process of envisioning other worlds. Most of our projects over the past several years were on older, time-worn structures. The contemporary structure of the Burchfield Penney is a new, exciting challenge and our largest project to date.”

“Wonderful to see two organizations working together on an education gallery which will benefit thousands of visitors to the Burchfield Penney,” commented Cynthia Baird Stark, Burchfield Penney Trustee and granddaughter of Cameron and Jane Baird. “Truly, the installation will be a work of art. Strolling through will stimulate the imagination, engagement and creative process.”

The Burchfield Penney was awarded two grants earlier this year resulting in $1.225 million in support for expanding education initiatives to serve diverse families, school groups and the community-at-large. The two grants—one awarded by KeyBank in partnership with the First Niagara Foundation, and the other by the Cameron and Jane Baird Foundation—are reflective of the Center’s renewed focus on education and families, and will greatly expand the Center’s ability and facilities to accommodate significant growth in both areas.

Beyond the renovation of the education space enabled by the gift from the Cameron and Jane Baird Foundation, the gift from Key Bank in partnership with the First Niagara Foundation is being used to establish an endowment fund in support of education. As the economic challenges presented by the pandemic have demonstrated so clearly, endowment funds are critical for non-profits to maintain institutional momentum and stability in difficult times.


AH150 is a nonprofit art, design and construction incubator and experiential learning center led by Dennis Maher—an artist and professor of architecture at University at Buffalo. AH150 creates inspiring, wondrous environments for all to experience the art of building. AH150  brings together artists, architects, designers, building industry tradespeople, artisans, planners, preservationists, students and apprentices, to build awareness of the built environment, teach skills in design and construction, and work together on impactful community projects that empower people through creative action. 


The Cameron and Jane Baird Foundation is a family-directed foundation that provides grants to a variety of organizations, with a strong emphasis on Western New York. 


Established in 1966 on the campus of SUNY Buffalo State, the Burchfield Penney Art Center is dedicated to the art and vision of renowned American artist Charles E. Burchfield (1893–1967) and the art and artists of Buffalo and our region.