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Artfarms receives NEA grant to infuse life into East Side

blog by Ben Tsujimoto  • 

Like every major city in America, Buffalo has its share of thriving neighborhoods—areas with a flowering arts and entertainment scene, walkable streets, creative restaurants and safe residential spaces. Other communities lag behind—they’re tattered, littered with vacant buildings, and aren’t among the first choices for an evening stroll.

Instead of ignoring these neighborhoods—pretending they don’t exist—organizations like Artfarms work to inject hope and vitality through a mixture of urban farming and practical art. For instance, local artists are invited to design sculptures—some of the avant-garde variety—to beautify and create sustainability in one of Buffalo’s poorest communities.

To buoy the project, Artfarms applied for and received one of 817 grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, which will split $35,000 between Artfarms and its partner, Polish Community Center of Buffalo. As a whole, the NEA doled out $26.3 million to similar missions.

Conceptually, here’s the mentality that Artfarms works to counteract, via the Artfarms website:

Urban vacancy in the East Side of Buffalo is widespread. With over 20% of its land empty, it feeds negative perceptions that discourage the city’s redevelopment. While there are ideas for individual empty parcels, there are no larger visions for the overall landscape, no concepts that escort the landscape towards new purposes that attract and revitalize the area.

You can browse through Artfarms’ Facebook galleries and website photos for a glance at sketched plans, which not only add aesthetics to the community, but also grows fresh produce and plants from previously overgrown or barren land.

Artfarms’ mission is Art + Agriculture = Activity, and its efforts have not only won the favor of a grant, but begin to serve as a unifier for the East Side.

“In a place with limited economic, social and cultural activity, Artfarms simply weaves together the ongoing initiatives in the East Side to support a common vision for its landscape,” said David Lage’, the organization’s project director.

“By building a cultural place with the efforts of those already engaged with the neighborhood, we believe Artfarms will transform the vacant land into the area’s most defining asset.”

Those are lofty goals—especially the “defining asset” part—but it’s encouraging to see ambitious, compassionate organizations like Artfarms and Buffalo Soccer Club recognized and financially backed for their initiatives.

TAGGED: artfarms, arts, david lage, east side, national endowment for the arts, nea grants, sculptures

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