Former Buffalo School District interim superintendent Amber Dixon has been named the executive director of the Buffalo Arts and Technology Center, a fledgling educational center that targets at-risk youth and under or unemployed adults.
Dixon was selected by an oversight committee that included representatives from such funding entities as First Niagara Financial Group, the John R. Oishei Foundation, Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo and Empire State Development Corp. Of the $4 million start-up costs, $800,000 was allocated from the $100 million Gov. Andrew Cuomo sent to the Western New York Regional Development Council last winter.
"We wanted someone had earned the respect of this community," said John Koelmel, First Niagara president and CEO. "We're in this to make a difference and reach out to people who either slipped through the cracks or are just under the radar screen."
Scheduled to open its doors by late 2013 or early 2014, at the latest, the center will be located in the first floor of the Artspace building on Main Street near the edge of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
Officials estimate the center may offer after school, arts-based programs to at risk youths - perhaps as many as 400 annually with the intent of keeping them interested in finishing high school and moving on to either college or a work environment.
Also targeted will be an estimated 200 under-employed or unemployed adults who need job training skills. Many of those skills may be geared towards the emerging Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
"This center matters and it matters a great deal," said Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, who was in Buffalo for the Dixon announcement. "We want to put state money in where it will make a difference."
Dixon, who has a deep educational resume, was an obvious choice after she was bypassed for a permanent appointment as Buffalo schools superintendent earlier this summer.
"Amber is that unique person," said Robert Gioia, Oishei Foundation president. "She has the skill sets you need to move this initiative forward."
Dixon said she is excited with the challenge.
Students will be taught by a wide variety of teachers ranging from those from the Buffalo Public Schools to people who teach at area colleges and universities. Dixon expects some tie-in with the artists living in Artspace's upper floors.
"It's no accident why we are located here," Dixon said. "I'm hoping the creativity leaches through the walls."