Photos by Arianna Lang
Perhaps the two most well-known art museums in Buffalo are The Albright Knox and Burchfield Penney Art Center. After visiting the Knox for years–and subsequently gazing across the street at the Burchfield Penney–I began to question why I had never visited. It is only a short walk from the Knox, after all. So, finally, one rainy Saturday, I visited, and my first thought: I wish I had gone sooner. Although the museum is magnificent enough that I don’t even need to argue in its favor, I’m here to boast about it, anyway. If you haven’t visited, here are some reasons why you should visit the Burchfield Penney soon:
1. The Location
The first reason is perhaps both the most obvious. As I mentioned before, it’s literally right across the street from the Albright Knox. Attending a double feature makes for a truly pleasant day, all for relatively cheap. I would even suggest this as a date idea—there is definitely a certain romanticism involved in viewing artwork. Of course, attending alone is an option, too. What I found most wonderful about the Burchfield Penney is its tranquil environment—the silence is far from uncomfortable. Everyone around me was so absorbed in the work, and it relaxed me. In the summer, this is especially convenient—you can enjoy the beautiful weather walking to and from each museum, and make it a day.
2. The Gift Shop
Right as you walk into the Burchfield Penney, you’ll notice that there’s a gift store next to the reception desk. I spent a good amount of time in there at the end of my tour through the museum, wishing I had visited before Christmas. There’s gifts for people of all ages; they even have a special section for children (with cute little finger puppets that I was tempted to buy myself!). My favorite part, though, is the exquisite jewelry collection—they have pieces you can’t find anywhere else.
3. The Layout
Generally speaking, the layout of the museum is magnificent. I love high ceilings in any building; it makes the space feel ethereal. That, paired with the natural lighting in the museum, makes the space feel especially open. I personally took to it immediately–because, who wants to feel claustrophobic when looking at art? The layout encourages mindless wandering. Perhaps my favorite room is a circular, gray, room, with paintings covering the wall (it’s officially called “The Charles Burchfield Rotunda”). It is dimly lit and serene with a cushy bench in the center. I sat down, and wrote for a while, undisturbed, while admiring the work of Charles Burchfield.
4. The Exhibitions
When I was visiting the museum, they had ten different exhibits; some of which will be up until March. The best part about the exhibits? Each one is vastly different. My favorites are the wide array of works by Alexander O’Levy, and, an installation called “A Chandelier for One of Many Possible Ends,” by Phillip Stearns. There is interactive art, sculpture, art deco, journal entries, installations… Certainly, each exhibit holds its own and offers new perspectives. I would happily argue that there is a piece in the museum for every type of person that enters.
5. The Docents
Although I prefer to wander around the museum at my own pace, I did happen upon a group of visitors being led by a docent during my visit. As I tuned an ear into what the docent was saying, it quickly became evident that she was enthused about her work—which is always refreshing. Not only that, but, docents are an excellent resource for research. I would suggest having a docent take you around the museum, especially if you’re a student. As an art history student, I find that physically interacting with someone passionate about their work is both convenient and accessible.
6. The Accessibility
Unbeknownst to me at the time, the Burchfield Penney is an extension of Buffalo State University; so it only makes sense that students who attend Buff State are allowed admission for free! As a student at UB, I was allowed in for $5 when I presented my school ID. If you ask me, $5 is pretty cheap to view so many priceless masterpieces.
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7. The Interactive Element
As I wandered through the museum, I was surprised to see that there are comment books scattered throughout, next to the exhibits. I looked down and saw that several different people have written their critiques—and was even more surprised to read some critical comments. I felt as though I was part of a community of critics and viewers, and was inclined to write my own thoughts. The comment books themselves felt like just as much of art as anything that hung on the walls; it is an opportunity for anonymous expression.
8. Art is Awesome!
My last point is perhaps the most important. I often think that art is undervalued in society, (especially to younger people), and a large part of that reason is because people don’t realize how breathtaking artwork is until they see it in person. We are lucky to live in a city with so many locations that allow us to expand our cultural understanding with just a simple walk. So, if you haven’t visited the Burchfield Penney, this is your cue to visit. And if you have: go again and again.
Burchfield Penney Details
1300 Elmwood Avenue Buffalo, New York 14222 / 716 878 6011
Learn about upcoming exhibits, events and tours here.
Hours: Tue – Wed: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, Thu: 10:00 am – 9:00 pm, Fri – Sat: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, Sun: 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Docent led public tours are offered every Thursday, Saturday and Sunday from 2-3pm
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