Art Meets Laundry on Buffalo's West Side

April 18, 2013 Updated Apr 18, 2013 at 6:43 PM EDT

By Ginger Geoffery

April 18, 2013 Updated Apr 18, 2013 at 6:43 PM EDT


The Westside Value Laundromat from the outside looks like a typical laundromat, but it's probably the only place in Western New York where you can shoot pool, take a computer class, browse the library, or check out an art installation while waiting on the washing machine's spin cycle.

"Going to a place that's totally normal and every day. but once you start to do some creative place-making it turns into a very interesting synthesis of place," says Barrett Gordon, The WASH Project coordinator.

"The WASH Project" stands for Westside Art Strategy Happenings Project and it's primarily aimed at helping the growing Burmese community on Buffalo's west side.

The laundromat owner, Zaw Win, is himself a refugee from Burma. He's called Buffalo home since 2005.

"For my people a big challenge is language skills, education," explains Zaw, "Speak English, read and write. For everything, they need English."

Zaw knows first-hand that learning English open doors and The WASH Project includes English classes, but there are also classes focused on modern job skills. For example, Gordon talked about an upcoming class designed specifically for girls.

"Squeaky Wheel is coming in in May and doing four tech arts for girls workshops where they'll teach girls ages six and up how to make handmade films back there and then translate them into the digital realm," says Gordon.

Right now, the Belle Center in Buffalo and Americorps are backing The WASH Project. It's only been around for about six months, So it's hard to judge its impact yet, but if all goes well the concept could be expanded to laundromats in other Buffalo neighborhoods.