Locust Street Art provides free or low-cost art classes on a consistent basis for any individual, especially youth, low-income and minority individuals from age 4 to senior adult, to seriously develop the talent and skills necessary to excel in the visual arts.
Around the corner on Locust Street, in the old St. Boniface nunnery, is one of Buffalo's most inspiring institutions. Known as the Molly-Olga Locust Street Neighborhood Art Classes, it has been offering free art classes to people from all over the city since it opened. It started in Molly Bethel's kitchen on Maple Street.
Word got out around the neighborhood that Bethel was a painter and soon some neighborhood kids approached her, half joking, asking if she could teach them how to paint. She could and she did, at a makeshift workbench set up in her kitchen. Word spread, the numbers grew and in 1959, Bethel was given space for her classes at St. Phillip's Church on Goodell Street.
Soon she was joined by Olga Lownie, a Ukranian refugee who had come to Buffalo with her parents after World War II. An art student at Buffalo State, Olga began working with Molly as a volunteer and in 1961 joined her as a co-director of what had become a community program. When St. Phillip's was
demolished as part of an urban renewal project in the Elm-Oak area in 1971, Molly-Olga, as it had come to be known, moved back to the Fruit Belt, renting space from the nuns at St. Boniface in the Locust Street convent. Three years later, their church gone, the nuns moved out. Using funds raised in the community and privately, the Molly-Olga School bought the lovely building.
On the wall is the Governor's Arts Award, given to the School in 1985 in recognition for Molly-Olga's "contribution to the cultural life of this state." Where love of art and of children transcend race, color, and creed, Molly-Olga is building bridges, creating new gates for this old neighborhood.
- excerpt from City on the Lake by Mark Goldman
Locust Street Art grows beyond Drawing and Painting.
Since our founding over 60 years ago, Locust Street Art has grown to include art classes in multiple mediums. Our original Drawing and Painting classes were soon joined by Ceramics. Then in the 1980s Photography was added at the request of our growing body of teen students. More recently Animation and Digital Media have been added to our free class offerings.
Locust Street Art draws students of all ages from the city of Buffalo and surrounding area. For decades we have provided a safe space of exploration and creativity for a diverse array of students. A beloved institution of the Fruitbelt neighborhood, 67% of Locust Street Art’s students are people of color, primarily African American (77% of students ages 4-13). Among the at-risk youth who attend classes, 90% live in zip codes considered low-income and 86% participate in free lunch programs.
Each year hundreds of students enroll in our programs. Working in traditional mediums as well as newer digital mediums, we encourage our students to explore art and the creative process at their own pace. We continue to find new opportunities to exhibit the artwork that our students create. This includes our Annual Art Show, our online art gallery and off-site exhibitions.
We are always eager to meet new students of any age and skill level and registration is ongoing. So, if you are interested in taking classes at Locust Street Art, please contact us, stop by or just enroll here.