Anyone driving along Delaware Avenue to the Starlight Studio & Art Gallery will know they have arrived even before spotting the street number (it’s 340 Delaware). Starlight’s façade is a brilliant riot of images: graphics and animals, faux window frames full of color; stylized vehicles, toothy creatures and more.
This place literally has art written all over it!
The playful expanse is reminiscent of some of the works of Spanish artist Joan Miro, brightening this block in the city with a flurry of bright hues and boomerang-shaped birds.
The painter who brought this Barcelona vibe to Buffalo is Steven Robinson, a Starlight Studio resident artist. Robinson is one of about 40 artists affiliated with the studio, which provides space for adults with learning disabilities to both create and market their work.
And make no mistake: These are real artists.
Marc Hennig of the Learning Disabilities Association of WNY (now part of Beyond Support Network) was inspired to start Starlight in 2005 after seeing a similar program in California. It’s a place where individuals with artistic interests could find support, safety and resources to develop their talents.
The work by Starlight artists is as diverse as the artists themselves. There are men and women, young and not so young, of different races and ethnicities, and different skills and abilities.
The most obvious difference, though, is in the vast variety of artistic preferences and styles on display here.
Program director Carrie Marcotte emphasizes that Starlight is not a therapy program. Everyone who works in the studio/gallery has an art background, and the focus is always on the art.
An artist satisfied with his or her progress will move ahead working solo, just like anyone with a private studio. Should they want to consult about trying something different or working on a technique, teaching artists are available to collaborate.
The depth of interests here is impressive. There are painters who work in oils, in watercolors and acrylics. There are ceramicists designing tiles and sconces, dishes and statuettes – Starlight has two kilns, and clay work is quite popular.
Painters using velum from end rolls donated by a local printer produce luminous images that evoke stained glass windows; textile artists make tapestries from burlap and yarns contributed by donors; “found objects” find new life in carefully composed collages.
Visitors are welcome at Starlight each weekday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (There also are member shows from time to time, and special events throughout the season.)
Right inside the door is the small public gallery, where member exhibitions rotate regularly. Often, the show is part of the “Side by Each” series, presenting works by Starlight members and teaching artists. Paintings also line a long hallway and, if your timing is right, can be found on display in the small Blue Sink Café.
Most artworks are for sale, and there also is a nice little gift shop with tote bags, prints and note cards featuring artwork by the Starlight team. Money from art and gift sales goes directly back to support the artists and studio.
It is free to come in and browse. In fact, it is encouraged. Plus, if a staff member is available, you even may be treated to a tour of the upstairs studio, where the real work gets done.
It is all part of the beauty of Buffalo’s brilliant artistic community, one that is inventive, vibrant, and welcoming to all.