Accessibility and Vitality

Lowell and his ASI colleagues
July 21, 2014
Lowell Jackson

It has been six weeks since I arrived in Buffalo and began my High Roads adventure. During this time, I have been working at the Arts Services Initiative (ASI) all the while experiencing as much of the city as possible. This post will outline what I have accomplished at work, my Buffalo life, and how Buffalo has influenced me.

At ASI, I have worked on three main projects. The first was an economic analysis of the arts and cultural sector in the Greater Buffalo region. After reading various reports and analyzing cultural data, I made recommendations to improve a study detailing the economic impact of arts organizations on the local economy. The second project involved planning and working on the SPARK awards – ASI’s annual fundraiser. I primarily worked on marketing, outreach, and writing the event script. The awards were a success and I found the opportunity to celebrate with local artists utterly satisfying. Lastly (and presently), I have been working with ASI’s program coordinator, Elizabeth, on Arts Access. Arts Access is a program that gives Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients free tickets to arts and cultural venues throughout the region. I feel that this is the most meaningful work I am doing. This is because I believe that the arts should be accessible to all of society. It is imperative that those who struggle through poverty – individuals who find little beauty in their lives – are able to attend art galleries, theater productions, and the like so that they may experience something beautiful for a change. The arts are restorative and revitalizing, they motivate individuals to create or reflect, and act as a wellspring of inspiration. In this way, they are vital to our city and everyone in it.

During my free time, my fellow High Roaders and I have delved into Buffalo’s artistic scene. Each Thursday, Canalside (the waterfront district) has free public concerts. I have seen Shaggy, moe, the Sam Roberts Band, and Fitz and the Tantrums thus far, and, in all, I have had a thoroughly wonderful time. Additionally, as part of my job, I have done site visits at many events. I attended Canalside’s Open Mic Mondays where I listened to poems inspired by Ireland, music written by a husband and wife duo, and two young boys singing John Legend’s All of Me. I also got to go to a drum circle on the waterfront. These experiences left me wonderstruck. There are so many venues where people can share their art and voice – everyone is encouraged. I sense a unique vibrancy in Buffalo – one based off of art and its appreciation as well as ensuring equal accessibility for all. All these help build a strong sense of Buffalonian pride. Buffalove is all the talk nowadays and everyone is committed to the city.

The other day, a few high roaders and I were reflecting on our Buffalo experience. We talked about how this city corrected our preconceived notions of urban decay and surprised us by its vitality. We agreed that we could easily find ourselves in Buffalo in the future and that the city has made an indelible impression on our lives. Furthermore, I shared how the High Roads program has inspired me to pursue more coursework pertaining to Economic Development and Urban or Labor History. These six weeks have affected me in a way I cannot effectively express in a brief blogpost. In order to understand what I mean, you will just have to visit Buffalo yourself.