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Cultivating Diversity & Inclusion at
The Burchfield Penney Art Center

Gallery Tour Guide + Translator with attendees opening night

My Role: Researcher + Curator + Project coordinator

Team: Researcher and Project coordinator, Outreach coordinator, Curator, Fundraiser, Workshop Facilitator, Translators, Artists


Project Overview: As part of my graduate thesis, I performed exploratory research related to diversity and inclusion in regional art centers. I identified a local organization whose mission centered on local communities, but was not reaching a significant subset of the local population.  I pitched a collaborative multifaceted project to design new programming that increased accessibility, diversity and inclusion in their space. This resulted in a partnership with The Burchfield Penney Art Center, a regional non-profit art center whose mission is to feature local artists. Ultimately, I collaborated alongside curators, community leaders, business owners, government organizations, exhibition designers, translators, volunteers and artists to find ways to increase the inclusion of artists and members of the newly settled local refugee community, specifically through Second Friday exhibition openings. 


Methods Overview: This project included over 80 hours of research including, exploratory research, interviews, surveys, competitive analysis and the collection of historical, socio-economic demographics data from the region.


Solutions Overview: We developed a multi-modal, multi-sited exhibition with sponsorship from local businesses and government organizations that attracted over 2,000 attendees and had accessibility features including translators paired with tour guides, free transportation to/from strategically identified sites, artist portfolio development, community art workshops. We shifted inclusion at the center and laid the foundation for ongoing projects. I received a fellowship from the American Alliance of Museums under the Diversity and Inclusion subset for my leadership on this project.


  • To better understand why there was a lack of engagement from diverse local communities

  • To understand why certain local artists are/are not submitting artwork to the center

  • To establish consistent methods to increase access, diversity, and inclusion at the center among visitors and artists

  • To develop programming that targeted different audiences

  • To develop artist training programs for under-served populations and new Americans


Artist Ipek Saracoglu , Untitled

Methods + Tools


I conducted research on the cultural norms of the refugee communities in the area and employed field research and participant observation. I conducted one-on-one interviews and focus groups,attended community events and engaged with connections from my time teaching English as a Second Language teacher at a local refugees services agency in order to understand barriers that prevent engagement from within the immigrant community and to establish a coalition of diverse collaborators.

S.S.A.Jericho.Belonging - 10_26_17, 10.3Dr. Sara Amiri
00:00 / 00:18

Excerpt of interview with collaborator Dr. Sara Amiri


I developed surveys, collected and analyzed historical and current demographic, migration, and linguistic data for the region as well as data from surveys at the beginning and end of the project in order to develop programming and find ways of improving future projects.


Attendees mingle and enjoy dance and music performances opening night

A Few Key Insights

  • Lack of language accessibility,access to transportation and cost of entry are significant barriers for newly settled immigrant communities

  • Many artists in immigrant communities had no training on portfolio development or how to submit works to a gallery in the U.S.

  • There were no art openings or events that feature artists or experiences that had any ties to niche communities










  • Translators (region's 5 most common non-English languages) paired with tour guides

  • All marketing materials drafted in region's 5 most common non-English languages

  • Free transportation at strategic locations to increase accessibility

  • Free ongoing portfolio development lessons and access to materials for artists selected to participate

  • Collaborated with immigrant community leaders to create an art opening and event, “Mosaics: A Celebration of Buffalo’s New Americans” that featured 20 local immigrant artists’ works, live music, food, and an all-ages art workshop and a tour around other participating galleries in Western New York

"As Charles E. Burchfield once said, “How is it possible to make people understand that artists are not interested in art?”. Art is not about the medium—nor is it necessarily about the time period. Rather it is about narrative: the story it can tell you, about an individual, about a group of people, about a period of time, about a collective memory, about being human. In this exhibition, each piece tells a story about the artist behind it, about their culture, preferred art medium, dreams and ideas. We believe art has the power to build community, and hope this exhibition will provide opportunities to build new connections by providing a space for expression, engagement, and understanding."

Excerpt from Exhibition Text Panel


Ismail Mohamed , Proud to Be in America, date unknown; colored pencil and mixed media

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