State awards $100,000 for study
By Joshua Maloni
While many Artpark & Company patrons are wondering what musical acts will perform at the Lewiston venue this summer, management at the performing and visual arts center is thinking a little further into the future.
Say, 200 years.
Right before Christmas, Empire State Development announced Artpark & Company was the recipient of a $100,000 award from the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council. The money will go toward the creation of a master plan – a road map outlining what Artpark could and should be now and well into the future.
Omar Khan of Gekh Studio is consulting with Executive Director Sonia Clark and the Artpark board on the master plan initiative. The University at Buffalo professor and former chairman of the department of architecture said the goal is to bring together different studies and stakeholders to determine “what a future physical plan may look like. … It actually makes physical visual in some ways, but also maybe most importantly phased and timely ways of sort of executing a very complex project, which is Artpark.”
The master plan is a grand imagining. In other words, could Artpark be X, and, if so, what will it take to achieve X. Artpark & Company’s stated goal is to “improve connectivity with surrounding parks/trails/communities, facilities and programs. The objective is to maximize overall park usage and potential focusing on visitor experience, technological advancement, sustainability and cultural leadership.”
“This is a collaboration between Artpark, our community, our stakeholders, specialists in various areas on all levels,” Clark said. “We invited artistic leaders from the national circle – from the Kennedy Center and Lincoln Center – and we have all kinds of very interesting true artistic icons specializing in various fields to help us plan out the much larger picture for Artpark. The master plan, as Omar said, is a road map for future development as a whole.
“That also involves a cultural shift. How do we manage it if we move from at this moment being mostly recognized as a classic rock venue into a concept that we’ve have been discussing with the board and the organization that moves toward art, nature, culture. It recognizes the confluence of those three things – how they work together. Some might say this was the base of Artpark in the first place. But it’s spelled out now to move toward a more progressive arts organization, or cultural organization.
“It’s still a public park, still a cultural organization, and a progressive thinking center. How do we merge these things, and how do we manage that change, because it will be changing from one type of primary audience to, perhaps, several different directions, and many more different constituents and people coming.”
In written correspondence to this news outlet, Artpark & Company stated a desire to be “an internationally recognized, financially sustainable destination where ecology, technology and culture interact on a broad scale with unprecedented impact.”
To that end, the master plan will challenge Artpark & Company management and board members to not just think in terms of a bigger outdoor stage or weather-proofing the theater for year-round programming, for example, but to consider what it would take for the venue to become a world-class site for art and culture.
Input and proposals will serve as a bridge between what Artpark & Company wants, what its patrons need, and what industry experts will recommend.
Clark said, “We hope to grow into a national destination. We hope to grow to (be) identified as a place that studies our relationship with nature, with the environment, with a cultural shift of progressive thinking in terms of the relationship of science and culture, for example. Draw people from all over with a particular interest, and focused in and being a place where that mission is much larger than just us. We’re thinking beyond Artpark – what are the needs of the sort of humanity for our society locally and also in a much larger sense.
“We don’t want to find ourselves 30 years from now in this room again with the board and new consultants and rethinking again, ‘What shall this be?’ We really want to think 200 years ahead – or at least one generation ahead – so that once we set this model – and it’s a complex model – it develops and it’s flexible enough that it allows for change in the process.”
“We’re not looking to present one plan. ‘This is what the theater is going to look like. This is the stage, these are the trails and, “Voila, everybody, this is Artpark.” ’ We really want to build a road that allows for new discoveries, change, adjustments, shifts. That’s how many successful centers of this kind – which there aren’t many – have been most successful in developing.”
The Artpark courtyard depicts the venue’s interest in music, art and nature.
The $100,000 award is less than half of what the master plan will cost. The specific amount was not disclosed. Artpark & Company will look primarily for private donations to fund the balance.
Even more than donations, Artpark seeks input from the public.
Khan said, “Any good master-planning process, that’s really the issue as to the concerns of, obviously, the audience is going to be here, being able to get a sense of that, and being able to sort of always have some kind of feedback. So, there’ll be workshops that will be done through the process through which people will be able to express their interests. And then there’ll be a way for actually them to sort of see how those are being envisioned.
“This is the nice thing about the (master plan) processes, that we all come together. Not everybody will be happy about everything, but you know, you come together and sort of say, ‘OK, over 10 years or 12 years, we can really see that this is where we want to be. We’re transforming our organization. We’re going to have to fix things. We may want to expand things,’ all of that. But that will become much more visual, much more tangible.”
Artpark & Company wrote, “The master plan is the next step in a process which began with the Artpark board of directors’ new vision defined in 2017 as ‘ARTPARK = ART + NATURE + CULTURE,’ continued with the recently completed feasibility and operations study.”
Clark said, “With its estimated $13 million annual impact on the local economy, Artpark is currently a major economic driver for both the Town of Lewiston and Niagara County, with almost limitless potential for further growth. Having received an unprecedented interest from the international architectural community, we expect that the master plan will result in a substantial revision of programming, grounds and facilities improvements, leading to extended visitor stays in the area, increased use of local shops and restaurants, and more jobs in the hospitality industry in Niagara County.”
Town of Lewiston Supervisor Steve Broderick said, “I am excited to support Artpark in obtaining this $100,000 ESD grant towards the 2019 Artpark master plan. We realize that Artpark is a big part of the Lewiston community and look forward to a continued relationship.”
Artpark & Company is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation operating the park grounds under terms of an agreement with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.