CEPA’s Community-Based Youth Education Program


CEPA’s Community-Based Youth Education Program

Center for Exploratory and Perceptual Arts Inc.
617 Main Street
Suite 201
Buffalo, NY 14203
Phone: 716.856-2717
Fax: 716.270.0184
E-Mail: sean@cepagallery.com
URL: www.cepagallery.org

Focus: Creative Writing/Literary Arts, Media Arts, Photography

Annual Number Participating: 300

Ages: Elementary, Middle School, High School

Annual Budget: $76,800.00

Partners: Autism Services; Boys & Girls Clubs of Buffalo; Buffalo Public Schools; Community Action Organization of Erie County, Inc.; Journey's end; Just Buffalo Literary Center, Inc.

Funders: Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo; M&T Bank; National Endowment for the Arts; New York State Council on the Arts; Robert j. & martha b. fierle foundation; The John R. Oishei Foundation; Vogt Family Foundation

Some of Buffalo’s boarded-up buildings, vacant lots, and deteriorating neighborhoods are getting a makeover. Groups of inspired young people are transforming those blighted areas into thriving community businesses, green spaces, and neighborhoods, filled with well-maintained homes and beautifully landscaped yards.

This feat of urban revitalization happens virtually — and is the basis for one of the many youth education programs offered by the Center for Exploratory and Perceptual Arts (CEPA), a Buffalo-based nonprofit arts center and gallery focused on photo-related art. With the guidance of teaching artists, participants in a program called Reclaiming Buffalo start by shooting photos of places they’d like to change. Next, they work with photo-editing software, manipulating these images until they reflect the students’ creative visions for the city.

Hard hit in recent decades by the loss of the steelmaking industry, Buffalo is the nation’s third poorest city. And, it’s struggling to deal with a host of economic, social, and racial disparities. While community leaders focus on finding solutions, CEPA’s numerous education-oriented initiatives engage young people in imaginatively addressing the city’s problems. “We want them to start to see themselves as change agents, even if it’s only in small ways,” explains CEPA Executive Director Sean Donaher.

Specifically, CEPA’s Community-Based Youth Education Program endeavors to create an environment that will bolster young people’s enthusiasm for learning. The photography and computer skills that participants learn through the program help students gain confidence in their ability to master new things. All of the program’s initiatives include creative writing components. Working with professional writers from Just Buffalo Literary Center, participants strengthen their literacy skills as they translate their photographic visions into poems, short fiction, or essays.

CEPA selects works from its community-based program to feature in its gallery exhibitions. Bus shelters throughout the city also display artworks from the Reclaiming Buffalo program, helping to share the students’ inspiring visions with the wider community, while showing the young people that they, too, can be part of the conversation about the city’s future.

CEPA’s work addresses issues of greater importance to the future of western New York and the education of its children — namely, building in students the confidence, self-awareness, empathy, and sense of personal and civic responsibility every person needs to take control of his or her life and future.

Sean Donaher Executive Director, Center for Exploratory and Perceptual Arts