Buffalo has a new after-school arts program for at-risk high-school students – and a familiar educator to run it.
Amber M. Dixon, a longtime administrator with the Buffalo Public Schools who served earlier this year as interim superintendent, will lead the Buffalo Arts and Technology Center, which is to be located in Artspace Buffalo Lofts, it was announced Wednesday.
The center, which is expected to open in 2014, also will provide health sciences career training for underemployed and unemployed adults, geared toward the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus and other local needs.
“What makes this so unique is we’re attacking the problems of struggling cities by both intervening with our youth to encourage them to graduate from high school, and with their families and the community by making sure underemployed and unemployed adults have the skills necessary to find jobs,” Dixon said.
Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, who has become a regular presence at newsmaking events and ribbon-cuttings in Western New York, made the announcement at Artspace.
“The Buffalo Arts and Technology Center, which received Western New York Regional [Economic Development] Council funding, aligns with the council’s goal of connecting people and jobs,” Duffy said.
“Today, with the addition of Amber Dixon, who has a wealth of knowledge and experience in education, the BATC is well on its way to making real progress in our region’s workforce development goals and addressing the disconnect between training, education and the job market.”
The linkage of art and vocational training programs is modeled after the Manchester Bidwell Corp. in Pittsburgh, a concept that has spread to several cities, including Cleveland, Cincinnati, San Francisco, New Haven, Conn., and Grand Rapids, Mich. The company also has an international presence.
“We have a simple philosophy – environment shapes people’s lives. By constructing an empowering atmosphere of art, light, music and a staff that strives to realize the genius in everyone, we enable our students to become productive society members,” Manchester Bidwell Corp.’s website says in explaining the organization.
“What makes me the most excited is having been to Pittsburgh, and visiting the Manchester Bidwell Corp.,” Dixon said. “Their graduation rate for students who have taken part in the program is between 90 and 95 percent. Raising high school graduation rates is essential to ensuring a better future for this city, and this will help do that.”
Dixon said the immediate goal is to serve more than 400 students and 200 adults during the first three years. She also said she would make “every effort” to launch the program in 2013.
An 18-month feasibility study led to the announcement of the center’s creation in January.
More than $4 million in public and private dollars was provided, primarily by the John R. Oishei Foundation, First Niagara Financial Group and Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, along with Empire State Development Corp. and the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council.
The funds will be used for the 14,000-square-foot center’s design, by HHL Architects of Buffalo, and the build-out of vacant space on the first and lower floors at Artspace Buffalo Lofts, 1219 Main St. It also will pay for Dixon’s salary, which she declined to disclose.
“I’m excited by the opportunity to take advantage of Buffalo’s strong cultural institutions in order to make this a reality,” Dixon said. “We love the location in Artspace and look forward to interactions between students and our center, and the artists who live and work there.”