July 2017 Honoree
Executive Director, Buffalo Arts Studio
Alma Carrillo’s wide-ranging journey to Buffalo – where she is executive director of the Buffalo Arts Studio – started in Mexico and then on to Texas; Notre Dame, where she graduated with a government international studies degree; a stint as office manager for the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Austin; Brown University, where she met her now-husband; and the Providence, Rhode Island-based Steel Yard, an industrial arts center and manufacturer of public art which fosters creative and economic opportunities, by providing workspace, tools, training and education, while forging lasting links to a local tradition of craftsmanship.
Alma is originally from Jalisco, Mexico; as a youngster, her family moved to Texas after the death of her father. Gifted in the STEM field, Alma started out as an engineering major at Notre Dame, but really preferred the arts. She eventually moved back to Texas and in 2001 she was hired as the office manager for the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Austin. It was in Austin that Alma’s interest returned to the arts. She realized that many local artists of color couldn’t find exhibition space. The spaces that did exist were more mainstream and the people who managed those galleries weren’t open to alternative or art they considered “too ethnic.” Alma returned to college, Brown University in Province RI, studying public humanities and cultural heritage, focusing on the connection between the academic and art world to the general public.
Alma’s husband had interviewed for a job in Buffalo; they moved to here in May 2013. And, she found her position at the Buffalo Arts Studio in the most “Buffalo” way possible: the woman who showed them their apartment asked the couple to her graduation party where Alma met the chair of the board for the Buffalo Arts Studio. Within a couple weeks Alma had joined the organization’s board.
Alma says, “I’ve spent my life since then trying to figure out a way to make the spaces that I am in more welcoming. How to expand the opportunities of arts access to a greater population and different, or non-traditional audiences. That’s why Buffalo Arts Studio was such a great fit for me when I moved to Buffalo.” Buffalo Arts Studio is an arts organization that creates community cultural connections through exhibitions, public art, and educational programs. It also provides exposure and affordable studio space for working artists. With over 20,000 square feet of space, they are able to offer 10-12 exhibitions every year, studio space for over 30 visual artists, art classes for youth and adults.
She says, “Buffalo Arts Studio transforms people’s lives through the arts. It has been a catalyst for self-empowerment and the cultivation of new ideas and actions that enhance our region. We are guided by the belief that art is for everyone and fundamental to a community’s well being, that artists need a safe and affordable place to work. We believe in the power of art to affect change.”
Alma serves on the Greater Buffalo Cultural Alliance Steering Committee, Brown University’s Public Humanities & Cultural Heritage, Advisory Board, is a member of Just Uniting for a Sustainable Future Creating (JUST Creating), and is a former board member of Hispanic Heritage Council.
She and her husband live in Buffalo with their 21-month-old son.