Welcome to Painting for Preservation!

Welcome to Painting for Preservation! This initiative, founded by artist Sara M. Zak, is aimed at drawing attention to distressed, at-risk, and under-utilized historic locations through on site art making.

Mission: To bring together artists of all media in support of historic distressed properties and communities. To create artwork on-site related to the location as a means of raising positive awareness of the space.

My hope is that we can continue this effort in Buffalo and expand the concept to other architecturally rich cities. Please e-mail Sara M. Zak if you are interested in starting a Painting for Preservation initiative in your city at info@paintingforpreservation.org

Our goals:

1. Raise awareness of at-risk, distressed and under-utilized locations and their neighborhoods

2. Create a record of historically rich locations through art

3. Create a community of artists invested in the urban landscape

4. Bring exposure and provide assistance to artists interested in documenting at-risk historic neighborhoods while also collaborating with members of those same neighborhoods.

5. Involve communities in sharing their stories of local historic architectural and their neighborhoods.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Documenting the Demolition of St. Mary's on the Hill

In the face of continued demolition, Painting for Preservation gathered at St. Mary’s on the Hill at the corner of Niagara and Vermont Streets on Saturday, August 27 to capture the last of the ruins. Abandoned in 1994 and partially demolished by way of roof removal in 2009. The Church was certified as a City of Buffalo Local Landmark under the review by the Preservation Board in 2008. Necessary maintenance nor improvements were made and the building rapidly deteriorated, as one would expect a 100 year old roofless structure in Buffalo. Last Saturday, there remained the base of the bell tower, north and west walls of the sanctuary, stained glass windows, and interior columns. The adjoining guild house was severed just days before.

Donna Hall by Steve Siegel

Stan Jennings from the Armory Tower

Members of the Niagara Gateway Columbus Park Association came by St. Mary’s to talk about its history as preservation-ready site and its steady decline to ruins. These guys were on hand when the bell was removed from the tower in 2005. The Prospect Heights and Columbus Park neighborhoods have been on high-alert of preservation issues for over ten years because of the proposed Peace Bridge plaza expansion. The Peace Bridge Authority owns several adjoining lots and historic buildings on Busti Avenue, including the vacant ca. 1863 Col. Samuel H. Wilkinson house – another City of Buffalo Local Landmark.

Artists working at St. Mary's were Kyle Butler, Liz Czapski, Donna Hall, Amanda Maciuba, Steve Seigel, Sara M. Zak. Also, Meg Baco, Kelly Jakiel, Laura Jakiel, Stan Jennings, Anne McBride, Crystal Sanchez.

Collage and Painting by Crystal Sanchez

Sketch for Print Making by Amanda Macuiba

Photo by Anne McBride
“...the windows made an impression on me today more than anything. I felt the soul of the building looking out onto the world one last time... and in some way, still graceful and grateful to those who were there to capture that essence, knowing it would soon be gone forever...”

Only a week after the Art-In, the west wall of St. Mary's which was its primary facade and the remainder of the tower were demolished. Some of the guild hall still stands.

Painting for Preservation is an inclusive and eclectic group of artists, preservationists, photographers, bloggers and community leaders that gather at historic buildings to make art with the architecture as the subject. We do not paint the actual building. Our goal is to raise awareness of the historic buildings by gathering at them, support artists working in the urban environment, and create an artistic record of our collective history. This year, we have hosted nine Art-Ins throughout Buffalo and artist's work will be on display during the National Preservation Conference in October.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Gather at St. Mary's on the Hill this Saturday Morning

The scheduled Art-In at St. Mary's on the Hill is still happening this Saturday morning (9:30am-1pm) - and now - with greater conviction of the need to keep painting and preserving.

Demolition began Monday afternoon at St. Mary's on the Hill, as of Tuesday afternoon the south wall was leveled. Although many of us called it "ruins," we knew the structure's possibilities. An apartment scheme was laid out within the past couple of years and the creative/gardening community surely would have made something happen.

Please join Painting for Preservation to create art from another vantage point - that of the lost structure, of the absence.  There is also a structure next door, the old school, that is threatened.  Come out of the desire to make art or record history;  Come out of principle, protest, celebration and illustration of what was lost today and the system of City-aided demolition-by-neglect. Artists will be on-site and all community members are welcome to gather at this lost historic place.

For more information, email Sara and Meg at P4Partist@gmail.com.

* A sincere thank you to whomever taped the This Place Matters sign to the fence.

Monday, August 22, 2011

New Painting for Preservation Logo by Michael Harmon!!!

We are thrilled that Michael Harmon offered his creative talents to create a logo for Painting for Preservation! 

Ruins at St. Mary's on the Hill (Vermont and Niagara)

Participate in art and preservation in Buffalo. Please join Painting for Preservation for their eighth Art-In of artists, preservationists and community members making art on site at historic Places. The location is, sadly, what is left of St. Mary's on the Hill Church at the corner of Niagara and Vermont Streets in the Prospect Hill Neighborhood this Saturday, August 27 at 9:30am to 12:30pm. This certified-Local Landmark is now a ruins.

Photo by Becky Harbison

St. Mary's on the Hill Church is a ruins of a ca. 1897 Lutheran Church with a remaining entrance tower and arched masonry openings of red Medina sandstone. The deteriorated state of the building will make for unique art. St. Mary's Church congregation left the building in 1994 and it served as a antiques business for some time after that. The building has an out-of-town owner and there are no plans for its preservation, although it has been suggested that it be a sculpture garden -- something P4P would support whole-heartedly!

Painting for Preservation is an inclusive and eclectic group of artists, preservationists, photographers, bloggers and community leaders that gather at historic buildings to make art with the architecture as the subject. We do not paint the actual building. There have been seven previously hosted Art-Ins and our goal is to raise awareness of the historic buildings, support artists working in the urban environment, and create an artistic record of our collective history.

A regional list and discussion of Preservation-Ready Sites can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/preservationready/. Email Sara M. Zak or Meagan Baco at P4Partist@gmail.com for more information.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Painting for Preservation: Another Chapter for the Fairfield Library?

Artists at Fairfield Library; Photo by Stan Jennings
Gathered on the grassy corner lot of Amherst and Fairfield Streets, over 25 architects, artists, families and local residents, organized by Painting for Preservation, admired the proportion and classical detailing of the Fairfield Library through out the morning of Saturday, August 13. The ca. 1897 building was designed by William Sydney Wicks as a Unitarian Church in the Colonial Revival style. Wicks was the architectural partner of E.B. Green, who together designed 104 buildings in 36 years of partnership, as Green & Wicks.

The church building was occupied by a Lutheran congregation until it was purchased by the City in 1924 and operated as a library until 2005 when it was closed by the County. Having been vacant and neglected for nearly six-years the frame building is showing signs of increasing deterioration. The building, at a little over 6,000 square feet, represents a realistic rehabilitation project viable for the private or the public sector. The last appraisal of the property in 2007 set the price at $75,000 and though approached many time to sell, the Common Council has denied all transactions. No specific plans have been made public.

It is the goal of Painting for Preservation to bring creative attention to neglected historic places in the City of Buffalo. Both the act of gathering at the historic, and often, distressed location and in creating artwork with the building as the subject, stirs new innovative conversation about rehabilitation possibilities. Typical Art-Ins attract artists, architects/preservationists, photographs, resident and community activists; all are welcome to participate and observe. As a group, Painting for Preservation, has organized seven Art-Ins and will host a gallery show at the Statler Towers during the National Trust for Historic Preservation's National Preservation Conference in Buffalo in October.

Like many of the locations chosen by Painting for Preservation, these historic places have back stories and personal meaning to its organizers and participants. For all those involved at the Fairfield Library Art-In, the purpose was magnified by both the deterioration of the lovely historic building and the closure of the Library that was an anchor of community and culture for over 80 years.

In 1924, the former church was purchased by the City and became a branch of the Buffalo Public Library. Merging City and County resources, the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library (BECPL) system was incorporated in 1953 and from this point on-ward, the building asset of the Fairfield Library was owned by the City of Buffalo but all operations were managed by Erie County. The Fairfield Library remained a neighborhood branch with high circulation numbers until it was permanently closed in October of 2005 and since been vacant.

Not without cause, because of declining city population, the BEPCL commissioned Aaron Cohen and Associates Ltd. to complete The Library Service Strategic Plan, 1999-2003. The criteria for library-worth Cohen Study focused on size, parking and room-for-expansion, all characteristics not found in the urban, neighborhood branch libraries like North Park and Fairfield, putting them at a disadvantage to remain open. Finally, the report recommended closing both libraries and constructing a new North Buffalo Community Library. A similar tactic in other areas called for closing 20 additional branches through out the 52-library system.

Still in 2004, the American Library Association ranked the BECPL as the leader in number of library facilities per capita with one for every 18,000-or-so residents, providing nearly twice as much access than other library systems nationwide. This was reported in "A Plan for Moving On" developed by the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.

When budget cuts in 2005 made the recommendations of the Cohen Study more feasible, the Fairfield Library was permanently closed in October of that year. As previously determined in their cooperative agreement, the physical building reverts to the City of Buffalo along with charges of its maintenance.

This hand-off from County to City is part of the problem. Buffalo has little budget to maintain the many City-owned properties, much less find suitable reuse strategies for them. So Fairfield Library no matter its historical or cultural significance became one of the over 7,000 vacant properties crumbling under City-ownership. Just recently, within the past month, was the Department of Real Estate given the budget to produce and hang For Sale signs on many of its properties.

A Buffalo Rising commenter, presumably from the neighborhood, mentioned that the City fails to maintain the lawn and residents often mow the lawn. The planters on the corner lot are tall with weeds and wildflowers. On a positive note, some artists chose to highlight the greenery.

Amanda Maciuba's Sketch
The Fairfield Library has been for sale by the City of Buffalo for several years with official RFPs for purchases distributed in 2007. An employee of the City of Buffalo Department of Real Estate stated that there has been interested ever since the building when on the market. Also of note, the property is listed on the City of Buffalo website with having Deed Restrictions but after additional research the Department found no restrictions. The listing has yet to be updated.

Residents, including Jeanine Baran of the Vernon Triangle Block Club, are hopeful for new stewardship,
“As a community, we are concerned about the building, and the first thing that came to my mind was maybe this [the Art-In] will attract some positive attention and a buyer.”
The last appraisal for the building that can be documented was $75,000 several years ago. Residents of the area have been hearing that a more recent appraisal valued the building at approximately $50,000. The process to purchase public building from the City of Buffalo requires Common Council approval based on the interested party’s vision for the property and their ability to finance it. No such buyer has been found.

Depending on the scope of work of Fairfield Library restoration, the cost can be roughly estimated in comparison with a budget prepared by Watts Engineering & Architecture, P.C. for work at the North Park Library at Delaware and Hertel Avenues in 2008. The report, available at the BECPL website, gives a probable cost at $696,700.

A popular target of finger-pointing for the Fairfield Library’s abandonment is mold and asbestos. Issues of mold and asbestos are common in all buildings not just historic buildings. The new $137M Federal Court House on Niagara Square has been on hold for months due to mold. Mold can be treated and asbestos can be contained, sealed and/or removed, and is commonly done skillfully during building rehabilitations.

There is tremendous neighborhood support for renewing the building’s place in the greater North Buffalo neighborhood. The Parkside Community Association has consistently strategized for the building’s preservation and reuse but has yet to get the right mix of funding and vision. Currently, the PCA has secured funding through the State’s Main Street Program for the mixed-use and commercial buildings along Main Street between Florence Street and Leroy Street; over $402,000 has been awarded. Perhaps with the momentum of a successful grant program and the leadership of Ben Johnson as Executive Director, there is still a place for community ownership at the Fairfield Library.

Other ideas for the property have included restoration as a private residence; most obviously a community center or community library; perhaps reuse by a small congregation.

Meagan Baco's Painting

The neighborhood has a strong cultural presence most notably Wright's Darwin D. Martin House in the National Register-listed Parkside East and Parkside West Historic Districts and with local businesses like Sweet_ness7, Fairy Cakes and Wil’s BBQ taking hold of Parkside Avenue across from the Buffalo Zoo, the location of the Fairfield Library is prime.

While the For Sale sign was a harsh reminder that this piece of Buffalo architectural history, public access to enlightenment and of many North Buffalonian’s family lore was abandoned - it can also be spun as an opportunity for new stewardship. The yellowed sign taped to the closed front doors of the Fairfield Library that though written in a positive tone, is much harder to read:

"After 80 years of service Fairfield Library is permanently closed. Thank you for your patronage and letting us be part of your lives and expanding your horizons."

The following photos by Steve Siegel:

Joan Shaw, NFPAP President

The Nowicki Family - Great to have a family participate and they were the youngest P4P participants yet.

Carol Siracuse's Beautiful Watercolor

Mickey Harmon and Dana Saylor

Friday, August 12, 2011

THIS PLACE MATTERS: Photo Submission for National Trust via Buffalo's Young Preservationists

Show BYP What Places Matter To You
Buffalo Rising
by Mike Puma
August 12, 2011

What place in Buffalo matters to you? Buffalo's Young Preservationists (BYP) wants you to show them. In conjunction with the "This Place Matters" campaign and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, BYP is looking for photo submissions of the places that matter to you.

The concept is simple, take pictures of yourself or your friends in front of the places that matter to you while also holding the "This Place Matters" sign. Participating is simple. Print a "This Place Matters" sign from the National Trust website, take your photos, and submit them directly to the BYP Facebook page or Flickr account.

Join the BYP at the Essex Street Pub (Rhode Island and Essex) on August 17th from 6-9 pm to see the photos submitted and discuss why these places matter to you. BYP members will be on hand to also discuss their participation in the upcoming National Trust Preservation Conference in October.

Buffalo's Young Preservationists is a group of concerned citizens whose goal is to raise awareness about the important role preservation plays in creating unique places that matter.

Painting for Preservation at Lyth Cottage (L to R): Sara M. Zak, Donna Hall, Meg Baco, Casey Milbrand [with sign], Amanda Maciuba, Dana Saylor. Photo by David Torke.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Painting For Preservation in Parkside: Fairfield Library

Artists to Create On-Site at Vacant Fairfield Library in Historic Parkside Neighborhood

After making art at the Buffalo Unscripted's kick-off at Buffalo Central Terminal, Painting for Preservation is returning to creating on-site art at lesser-known historic buildings for their seventh Art-In on Saturday, August 13, 2011 from 9:30am to 12:30pm. The event's inspiration is the former-Parkside Unitarian Church, former-local branch of the Buffalo and Erie County Library, and currently vacant, classically-designed neighborhood anchor, known as the Fairfield Library at 1659 Amherst Street near Starin Avenue.

Painting for Preservation, often in collaboration with Preservation-Ready Sites and Niagara Frontier Plein-Air Painters, invites professional artists, amateur artists and community members to create art at historic buildings in any media (ie. paint, photography, celluloid, paper, collage, cloth, etc.). *Note to Artists: You do not have to be a realist artist to participate; all interpretations/inspirations of the space are sought and all are welcome to observe. By gathering at neglected and forgotten historic places, the artists focus a soft creative light on buildings in need of attention. The events and art work create a record of the building’s current condition with the hope of stirring additional conversation about rehabilitation opportunities and it's historic past beyond what we can read about.

The deterioration of the Fairfield Library in the much-heralded historic Parkside neighborhood and near the community-led revitalization of the Vernon Triangle neighborhood is a hard example of both the closure of branch libraries and the demolition-by-neglect of a City of Buffalo-owned property of historic significance.

Designed by the equally skilled partner of E.B. Green, William Sydney Wicks, the building was originally the Parkside Unitarian Church with classical architectural elements to reflect the democratic beliefs of the congregation, unlike overtly religious images in the iconic buildings of other faiths. Significant to the compact building is the pedimented entrance supported by columns, multi-light arched wood windows, and heavy detailing at the eaves. A later addition was made in the 1960s but the majority of the corner lot remains a generous grass lawn for appreciating the building’s proportions.

Williams Sydney Wicks was a resident of the Olmsted-designed, Parkside neighborhood for over 30 years. In some gathering of architectural genius, Wicks’ ca. 1890 self-designed family residence overlooks Jewett Parkway to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Darwin Martin House built in 1907 and the much newer ca. 2009 glass visitor pavilion by Toshiko Mori.

As the largest, membership-based community association in the region, the Parkside Community Association continues to keep an eye on the Library but has been unable to directly support its rehabilitation. Also in recent years, the Fairfield Library was sought for conversion into a single-family home by a pair of local small-scale developers with many successfully completed home restorations. The transaction of City property to private hands was scrutinized and the deal did not go through leaving the building vacant since 2005. The building is currently for sale.

There are three remaining scheduled Art-Ins for the 2011 painting months; Saturday, August 27 at St. Mary’s on the Hill; Sunday, September 11 at Saint Adalbert Basilica, and one either October 22 or 23.

For more information please see our blog at: http://paintingforpreservation.blogspot.com/ and/or email Sara M. Zak, Founder or Meg Baco, Organizer, at P4Partist@gmail.com.


Meg's Anecdotes about North Buffalo Branch Libraries
As a kid, I remember the two libraries I walked to with family members, both of these libraries in historic buildings were set-back on lovely corner lots in dense residential areas.

First, my
library. The North Park branch library is hidden from the busy Hertel and Delaware intersection with shady trees and has a cozy, central entrance in an L-shaped Tudor building. The interior was even more calming than the approach with soft light in the dusty air. I had been calling it my library since the mid-eighties and I remember being the exact height to rest my chin on the circulation desk as the librarian stamped and shuffled the check-out cards. Perhaps the most precise memory - that shows the significance of local libraries as not only community anchors but life anchors for children - is my embarrassment when I had out-grown the "signature" on my library card and the librarian chuckled. Now I know that it was endearing and I was a familiar, but growing-up fast, face to that neighborhood librarian.

Second, the Fairfield Library was the branch of choice when I was visiting my Aunt and three younger cousins on Parkside Avenue. I joined in on their weekday afternoon library routine; I passed new homes, one in particular with a massive modern sculpture on the lawn, but arrived at a similarly aura-ed library on Amherst Street.

Local branch libraries are family destinations; they are the anchors of childhood that lead to independence...like the first time I rode my bike to the library alone or realized the financial penalties of procrastination in the form of personally-paid-off late fees. The era of these municipally-owned beacons is slowly closing. The Fairfield Library has been regrettably closed since 2005 and after a long hiatus, the North Park Library has re-opened, not in their historic corner building, but in a vacant strip-mall. That relocation requires additional comment but is overwhelmingly positive.