Ribbon Cutting of the Burchfield Art Center, December 9, 1966
Dr. Edna M. Lindemann; Photograph by Paul Pasquarello
C. Arthur Burchfield and Dr. Charles Rand Penney at the Ribbon Cutting for the new museum, September 8, 2008
Dedicated to Western New York art since 1966
Consistent with its mission as both a dedicated and regional museum, the Burchfield Penney has, throughout its history, broadened its range of commitments and activities, while intensifying the museum's focus on the work of Charles E. Burchfield.
In addition to its visual arts offerings, the Burchfield Penney regularly presents concerts, literary readings, lectures, symposia, workshops, and special events. This diverse programming provides artists, students, scholars, collectors, and the general public with opportunities to learn and exchange ideas about how Western New York art reflects American aesthetics and culture.
Charles Burchfield inspired the creation of the museum at Buffalo State College in 1966. Originally called the Charles Burchfield Center, the Burchfield Penney was formally created through the Buffalo State College Foundation Inc. Its first director was Edna M. Lindemann, Ph. D.
In 1983, the museum was renamed the Burchfield Art Center to support its multi-arts focus. Committing to a full range of visual expression, including craft art, architecture, and design, as well as fine art, the Burchfield Penney Council formally accepted an expanded mission in 1988.
Led by its second director, Anthony Bannon, Ph.D., who served from September 1985 through March 1996, the Burchfield Penney began a decade of significant growth. Expansions of exhibition space, archives and collection storage, and administrative offices were accompanied by increased fiscal and community support.
Between 1991 and 1994, the Burchfield Art Center received a series of gifts from Charles Rand Penney, including the largest private collection of works by Charles E. Burchfield; publications and hand-crafted domestic objects from the Roycroft community; and historic and contemporary works of craft and fine art.
These collections, which have been used in numerous exhibitions, educational programs, and publications, have provided the Burchfield Penney with invaluable national exposure. In 1994, the museum was renamed the Burchfield Penney Art Center to honor the significance of these gifts and their contribution to the museum’s mission.
Community collaborations, including those that led to the development of the Elmwood Museum District and the Olmsted Crescent, the public art projects Herd About Buffalo and Art On Wheels and a dynamic exhibition schedule, illustrate the museum’s growth. The Burchfield Penney began a new phase of service to a national and international audience with its third director, Ted Pietrzak, who served from 1998-2010.
The most recent chapter of the museum’s history began in 1998 when William J. Magavern II proposed a new museum building for the Burchfield Penney with a significant lead gift. After almost 10 years of planning, fundraising and construction, the new Burchfield Penney Art Center opened November 22, 2008 on the campus of Buffalo State College.
Since opening in November 2008, the Burchfield Penney has greeted more than 300,000 visitors from all over the world. In 2009, travel editors of The New York Times included Buffalo, NY and the Burchfield Penney Art Center as one of the “Top 44 Places in the World to Visit.”
On February 9, 2012, the Burchfield Penney and Buffalo State announced the museum's fourth director, Anthony Bannon. Bannon returns to the museum after 16 years as director of the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film in Rochester, NY.
In 2016, the Burchfield Penney Art Center celebrates 50 years as the Museum for Western New York Arts. The year is highlighted by groundbreaking exhibitions, dynamic programming, aggressive collecting and celebration of the cultural legacy of the region.