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Kenan Center to launch 50th anniversary celebration


Thu, Jan 19th 2017 02:40 pm
Kenan Center
Kenan Center

In 2017, the Kenan Center celebrates 50 years of enriching lives in the community through cultural, educational and recreational opportunities for all ages.

"Looking back with pride, looking ahead with promise," will kickoff on Feb. 3 with the reading of an official proclamation from Lockport Mayor Anne McCaffrey, an awards ceremony, announcement of exhibitions and events throughout the year, unveiling of 50th anniversary wines by Schulze Vineyards & Winery, and viewing of artworks from the forthcoming, historic exhibit opening in the Kenan Gallery on April 30 ("Three Generations of Burchfields: Works from the Schoene Collection"). Samples of the 50th anniversary fine art calendar will also be available, with local artists on hand.

Leading the planning committee that is preparing an extensive schedule of special 50th anniversary events are Kenan Center board officers Chris Marra and Selena Truax Morello.

"Over the past 50 years, the Kenan Center has grown in so many ways beyond the concept of a community center that was first presented to William Rand Kenan," Kenan Center Executive Director Susan Przybyl said. "The buildings and grounds have undergone continual updating and improvement; programs and events have evolved as the community has changed; and our recognition as a significant regional tourism and cultural site is astounding when you look back at our humble beginnings. We are indebted to the countless volunteers who, over the years, have served on the board, guiding the center to financial and organizational stability; to those who taught classes, hung art exhibits, maintained the gardens, donated their time to events, sat on committees, and literally kept the doors open through their unwavering financial support. They are the backbone of the Kenan Center.

"We are also fortunate to have had the support of the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust from the onset, and most especially Thomas S. Kenan III, Mr. Kenan's great-nephew, whose affection for Lockport has been a great gift to the community as well as the Kenan Center. Guiding us through the years has been Mr. Kenan's stated wish that his property be used for the benefit of the community, with education being at the heart of his vision. We look back with pride at the five decades that the Kenan Center has fulfilled his intentions, and we look ahead with promise to what we will accomplish in the future."

Located in a mid-19th-century Victorian mansion that belonged to Mr. and Mrs. William Rand Kenan Jr., the Kenan Center has become one of the premier cultural facilities in the Buffalo Niagara region. Located one mile from the historic Erie Canal, the Kenan Center plays a significant role in local heritage tourism, offering annual popular programming that includes the prestigious 100 American Craftsmen show of fine, contemporary craft art; the Niagara Wine & Beer Tasting Festival; and year-round gallery exhibits featuring local and regional artists. The center also serves as the starting point for the annual "Lockport in Bloom" garden walk, while the Kenan Center Arena hosts major sporting competitions, antique shows and community events throughout the year.

Several exhibitions and events will mark the year's celebration, including:

"Three Generations of Burchfields: Works from the Schoene Collection," opening April 30 - This rare exhibit will feature works by noted American watercolorist Charles E. Burchfield, his daughters, Catherine Burchfield Parker and Martha Burchfield Richter, and his granddaughter, Peggy Richter Haug. Guest curator is Gerald Mead. The exhibit has special significance as the very first exhibit held in the House Gallery was of Charles Burchfield works from the collection of Charles Rand Penney on April 30, 1966, which was also Kenan's birthday. In celebration of this special anniversary exhibit, a "Tea & Tour" will take place May 21 with an overview provided by Mead and collector Louise Simon Schoene.

"Erie Canal ~ Spirit of Structure: Platinum/Palladium Images by Dennis Stierer and Tillman Crane," Aug. 13 through Oct. 1 - This second major exhibit will feature images of the Erie Canal in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the groundbreaking for the canal that took place on July 4, 1917. A special afternoon luncheon/talk is scheduled for Sept. 17.

The Kenan Speaker Series, hosted with the First Presbyterian Church of Lockport, will celebrate its fourth year of presenting distinguished speakers on topics related to religion and faith in 2017 with two notable speakers. The first program, on Feb. 11, will feature Jeremy Begbie, a musician, scholar, author and director of Duke Initiatives in Theology and the Arts at Duke Divinity School, North Carolina. On Sept. 23, the Kenan Center and First Presbyterian will welcome Sister Joan Chittister, one of the most influential religious and social leaders of the time. Chittister is the author of more than 50 books, and is in high demand as an international advocate for peace, human rights, women's issues and church renewal. The major interfaith engagement will take place at the First Presbyterian Church and will honor the founding members of the Kenan Center.

Space enthusiasts, young and old, will especially enjoy a special speaker on Oct. 28. Air Force pilot Ron Franco will talk on his experiences as a NASA mission simulation specialist.

The most extensive event is planned for July 8 when the center presents a campus-wide "Community Day." Planned is a 5K race along with games, food, music and theater performances, and recreational activities in the arena, with more to be added to the day of fun for the whole family.

Additionally exciting is a return of performances in the Taylor Theater. Two former Lockportians and veterans of Taylor Theater productions, Kathleen Rooney and Peg Merrill, launched a new group called the Carriage House Players. Along with the Kenan Center, they will present both theatrical and musical performances, including a new jazz series. The first concert takes place Feb. 25 and will be "A Tribute to Dexter Gordon" featuring Kelley Bucheger's What Would Mingus Do? Quintet.

Wrapping up the 50th anniversary events will be a special "Harvest Gala" on Oct. 14. More information will be announced.

In addition to the anniversary events, the Kenan Center has a full calendar of programming that will include the 47th annual 100 American Craftsmen, June 2-4; the Biennial Quilt Show hosted by the Kenan Quilters' Guild, Nov. 3-5; the Kenan Arts Council Holiday Gift Show, Nov. 17-19; the six-week "KidQuest" summer youth program that includes special programs in theater, art, science and recreation, along with family-oriented performances and activities; additional gallery exhibits; art classes for children; "Paints Uncorked" for adults; a Montessori preschool; and soccer and other team sports in the Kenan Arena.

For more information about the Kenan Center, including an updated calendar, visit kenancenter.org.

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