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Paying a visit to Hamburg’s Centennial Art Center: the little red schoolhouse on Amsdell Road

A HISTORICAL PIECE — The Centennial Art Center was the Little Red Schoolhouse in the 1800s. Today, the building is still home to students, particularly those of art. Photos by Alicia Greco.
HAMBURG — The tiny red building that sits on Amsdell Road in Hamburg is currently home to the Centennial Art Center, but it was once the Little Red Schoolhouse.

In existence since the early 1800s, the not-for-profit Centennial Art Center was incorporated into the facility in 1975; the official opening day was May 16, 1976.

The art center provides a studio and classes for interested artists, in addition to a paid membership program that allows participants to partake in local art shows and exhibitions, where they can sell their work. There are currently 100 registered members.

A grant is given to the CAC by the town of Hamburg, each year, so the building and services will be open to the community. The CAC is a 501(3)(C) organization, and is tax-deductible.

Involving local youth, the center also holds a children’s art club, which meets once per month, and an art camp for children that is held during the summer. It has recently become involved with Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops, to help assist participants in earning badges.

Judi Witt, the outgoing president, received a master’s degree in art education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She went on to teach for more than 30 years. Her degree allowed her to explore many facets of the art world; she is also a muralist, whose work is displayed around Hamburg, at the Coyote Cafe and Buffalo Street Grill, to name a few.

Vice President Mary Ahrens, who will be the upcoming president in March, has taken private art lessons for 10 years, through the Salvation Army of Buffalo.

TIME TO GESTURE — A demonstration stage is available, in addition to skeleton models for technique development.

“What’s nice about this organization is we have such a diverse group of people,” Ahrens said. “We have people whose work is nationally known ... and won international awards ... who have been published in magazines and books. We have people who belong to the Roycroft, a group of artists who have reached a certain master status.”

She said that being a master artist is not a requirement. “People come here with all levels of achievement,” Ahrens said. “As long as you have the desire,” added her daughter and the center’s publicist, Christine Geary.

Witt, Geary and Ahrens consensually directed beginners to take a class with CAC member and teacher Lynn Jay. Pen and ink or watercolor classes are taught by Jay twice per week and have ongoing enrollment, so there is no definitive beginning or end to her class.

“I think [her classes] are a good place to start,” Geary said. The team said that the size of the classes are intimate, with approximately eight – 10 people in attendance.Students come from all over the local area, including Boston, Eden, Springville, Silver Creek, Buffalo and Lackawanna.

Life drawing, a course for artists aspiring to advance their work, is also available. Students are allowed the opportunity to draw or paint a nude figure model. “I think this is one of the few places in the city area that does [nude drawing] for non-students,” Geary said. This course is available for artists who are 21 years of age and older.

“If you feel you want to learn something, this is the place,” Ahrens said. “It’s an amazing facility here. It’s quite an advantage for the community to have a facility like this.”

Representatives of the CAC said they hope to attract new registered members, people of all ages (especially younger students) interested in taking classes and also new teachers who may be able to provide classes in an art form that the center does not currently provide.

For more information about the Centennial Art Center, visit or

Easels are available for students, but the team recommended that individuals bring their own materials.

The Centennial Art Center of Hamburg Inc. is located at 3185 Amsdell Road in Hamburg.

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