Artpark Bridges


Artpark Bridges is a year-round community engagement program dedicated to providing the larger WNY population with empowerment, integration, healing and creative expression tools through drama, art therapy and interactive initiatives.  

All people want to feel valued and valuable.  Artpark Bridges connects Western New York citizens of diverse abilities and backgrounds.  It empowers them with the confidence to showcase their talents, gain a sense of inclusion and purpose. It creates valuable experiences for us all to be proud of. 



Step 1: Connect 

Artpark leadership establishes meaningful dialogue with community service organizations throughout Erie and Niagara Counties and designs custom-made programs for each according to specific priorities and needs of each partner and their constituents.

UpSkill People Inc Empower

In 2018, Artpark established programs with People Inc., Empower, Buffalo Department of Education / Adult Education Division ESL program, which now continue into 2019.


step 2: empower

Artpark’s own teaching artists conduct weekly on-site visits with community organizations at their facilities with custom-designed programs, which include visual arts, music, theater games, movement and other forms of interactive engagement. These types of engagement activities stimulate development of social skills, confidence building, mental health, a general sense of well-being and acceptance.

Empower will engage in self- love, while developing meaningful interpersonal connections with the community through performance, internship opportunities, and their own art garden.


People Inc. will hone their visual arts and performance skills in a natural and holistic setting while gaining confidence and making social connections.


Buffalo Public Schools- Adult Division will use theater and the the arts to practice ESL skills, work towards resume development and form connections to their new community.  It is a way to help them feel at home.



Step 3: Create

During Artpark’s summer season, each group will gain a sense of belonging and active purpose through carefully curated weekly visits to Artpark. These visits may include attending events, volunteering, building a garden, painting a mural, taking a walk among nature and public art; attending a special workshop at Artpark Percussion Garden, or participation in a major public event. 

The joining of all participants on stage to present to a large audience is a substantial and inseparable part of the program. It is a natural culmination of the process with a unique empowering opportunity: where every participant has a voice; where every participant is a peer; and where together their effort and triumph are celebrated by a massive cheering audience. 

See what we've done and what's coming up!


2020 Bridges project

The solo roths waltz across the red hot colossus lot

A Parking Lot Mural Collaboration of the Artpark Bridges program with People Inc. and Parkinson's Community on 160,000 square feet of asphalt canvas

Completed August 2020

This public art project has transformed Artpark’s lower parking lot (Lot D, South 4th Street entrance) into an expansive canvas of colorful playfulness that expresses universal connections of our shared humanity.

Early in 2020 a jury selected Rob Lynch & Matt SaGurney (The Solo Roths) as Lead Artists on Artpark’s Parking Lot Mural Project. The artists collaborated with the Artpark Bridges Team (People Inc.; Cynthia Pegado - Director of Artpark Bridges; and Parkinson’s Community) to generate concepts and imagery to be painted in the Lower Parking Lot at Artpark. Through various Zoom meetings held during the spring and early summer months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lynch and SaGurney took influence from the program participants’ sketches and concepts. They then developed that imagery into the nearly 400’ x 400’ work, using an improvisatory method of collaboration akin to jazz. Volunteers from the Parkinson’s Group along with other friends, aided in the painting process. Though not intended as a permanent work because of weather and wear, the basis of the project was intended to bring people and families together in an outdoor setting during a period of isolation.

This project was supported by: Charles D. and Mary A. Bauer Foundation, Cornerstone Community Federal Credit Union, Joseph & Pamela Priest, Jeff & Marla Williams

Click here to learn more about the project


bridges look back

In 2018, its inaugural year, the Artpark Bridges program culminated in a special musical theatre production, a modern stage adaptation of "The Odyssey." 

Odyssey Photo by Richard Termine

The Odyssey was a professional theater production which integrated amateur participants in a groundbreaking collaboration.

Actual Broadway stars, Terence Archie and Courtney Balan, traveled from New York City to work with the best of Western New York professional and amateur talent. Months of workshops, rehearsals and artistic collaboration came to a triumphant presentation at Artpark's Mainstage Theater on August 4 and 5, 2018 under the direction of Roger Danforth. Over 200 participants including theatre  professionals, elementary to college students, seniors, amateur performers, local volunteers and community organizations were applauded on the stage by an audience of over 2,000. Supporters graciously donated food, rehearsal space and made monetary contributions.

view the odyssey story, show info, complete cast listing and more


bridges testimonials

"Our ESL students benefit from participating in Artpark theater workshops for a variety of reasons. Many of our students come to us having very little previous opportunity to speak English and even fewer opportunities to participate in an artistic endeavor. Engaging students through theater helps them develop public speaking skills, gain confidence, and provides them with team-building opportunities, all of which in turn helps students cultivate a richer understanding of the English language.”
-Jason Guzzetta, M.S. Ed Coordinator, BPS Adult Education Division


"I think it's a great opportunity for me, for my future, and to be a successful actor. Performing with other people, and getting to know people too. I was very friendly with everybody, and I liked the whole team who worked together."
- Jon Mercado, People Inc.


"The Odyssey project, I really really liked the show, and my favorite part, it was singing. I feel like I am very happy to be on stage with Broadway actors."
- Keller Vogelsang, People Inc.


"It was incredible and magnificent because it inspires me to be in the community with other people. The crowd and the fans loved the performance. The best experience of theater, it inspires me to do anything I put my mind to!"
- Peter Vasko, People Inc.



2019 Strawberry Moon Festival

Artpark’s new Strawberry Moon Festival was held on June 22nd, 2019 and featured performances by A Tribe Called Red, Sam Roberts Band and Alan Doyle. Live music was preceded by indigenous arts, music and food festival.

The Artpark Bridges participants performed together with the Iroquois community, Artpark youth, volunteers and local musicians, all led by an internationally renowned percussionist and community organizer, Cyro Baptista.


Sound Dance 

Sound Dance seeks to facilitate expressivity, while creating an environment of wellness, self-care and respect. Through creative dance and sound-making, participants benefit physically, creatively, socially and emotionally while exploring personal expression and mutual collaboration. 

Led by Cynthia Pegado, an experienced teaching artist and movement expert, Sound Dance is built on a foundation of accessible movement strategies. Classes are suitable for all ages, and movement abilities, including people with Parkinson's disease and mobility challenges, people using wheelchairs, ambulatory people and anyone who would like to explore interpretive dance movement and rhythm.

From an array of large sweeping gestures to small, precise movements, each person will find movement appropriate to their body's abilities as we move together to create dance and sound in the Artpark Percussion Garden.

Sound Dance summer workshops: July 1, 13, 27
Fall workshops: September 22, 29 and October 6 

This new Artpark Bridges program is presented through partial seed funding from Arts Services Initiative of Western New York. 


Artpark Bridges Garden

The Artpark Bridges Garden is a painted pyramid sculpture that incorporates different types of percussion instruments with a surrounding garden of greenery and flowers. The Garden was created in a collaborative effort of participants from the Artpark Bridges community engagement program, including People Inc., Empower, artist Brian Nacov and landscape designer Andrew Palinski. 

The concept of the piece was born out of a conversation between Artpark and Empower, desiring to give participants of the Artpark Bridges program something they can call their own and serve as a retreat when they visit the park.

The Artpark Bridges Garden is designed by Andrew Palinski. The pyramid and its instruments are conceived and installed by Brian Nacov. The mural on the pyramid, is designed and painted by artists from The Arts Experience of People Inc. including Jonnathan Mercado, Avery Gill, Royce Walczak, Theresa Woody, Rachel Olszewski, Sarah Schmidt, Keller Vogelsang, Alex May, Mary Ann Gregory and People Inc. Staff: Anne Paulk, Justin Leis with paint donated by Hyatt’s All Things Creative. 

The plants that surround the installation are all native perennials provided by Russell’s Tree and Shrub Farm, LLC. The garden is ADA accessible, thanks to granite donated by International Stone Gallery of Lockport. 


The Artpark Bridges Garden is supported in part by the Charles D. and Mary A. Bauer Foundation, the WGRZ Channel 2 and Tegna Foundation, Teresa Williams, Thomas Donahower. See below for full listing of Artpark Bridges supporters. 


Community Choir performance with Foreigner

This summer, Artpark Bridges participants from People Inc. along with students of the Artpark Theatre Academy had the incredible opportunity to perform with rock band Foreigner on the Amphitheater stage! On August 27, 2019 the choir joined the band for their most famous hit, "I Want to Know What Love Is," and belted the chorus in front of a SOLD OUT audience!

Enjoy this short clip: 



Foreigner agreed to donate 50% of the proceeds from their CD sales that evening to Artpark Bridges program.  Thank you to Foreigner for their generosity! 


2019 teaching artists

Cynthia Cadwell Pegado weaves her passion for immersive performance into the creative process of site-specific work for people of all abilities. 

Ms. Pegado is a NYS Council on the Arts Community Arts awardee (2017, 2018, 2019), for “Art Moves Me”, her interpretive dance program based on visual art, designed for the Burchfield Penney Art Center, which draws people with neurological movement disorder into artistic, expressive dance within the galleries. Her teaching encourages multi-sensory perception and response, and igniting cognitive and physical challenge in incremental layers that allow personal successes. She has choreographed performance works for students in Parkinson's specific classes as well as public programs which include Global WaterDances (a worldwide network of choreographer's advocating for water quality). 

NYS Council on the Arts awarded her the Individual Artist award for her program “Sound Dance” at Artpark (2019), which invites people of all movement abilities into guided and improvisational dance, while using movement to create a communal soundscape with gongs, percussion instruments and our voices. Her work is recognized as a “cultural asset to the Buffalo community” as a Give for Greatness awardee since 2015.

After dancing principal roles with Ken-Ton Youth Ballet, she enjoyed an international performance career in classical ballet. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts, cum laude, in Dance Performance from University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music. 


Griffin James Brady, has a Master of Arts degree from Goddard College with a focus in Ethnomusicology and Music Pedagogy. His masters thesis and adjoining musical method books were inspired by his work as a touring musician and educator with groups such as the SAAKUMU Dance Troupe of Ghana, West Africa. Upon founding the Slyboots School of Music, Art & Dance in Buffalo, NY in 2006, Griffin has been teaching and performing in over 800 Universities, Colleges, High Schools, Elementary Schools and clubs across the United States, promoting the Slyboots mission- “positive social change through cultural arts education and performance. Bringing the world together, on the sly.”

In addition to his touring efforts, Griffin also works as a teaching artist in WNY schools, has been a featured speaker at various panel discussions and events including the Ted X Buffalo conference and he also organizes and implements a study abroad program that has brought WNY students to Africa nearly every summer since 2010. Griffin is also widely known for the community events that he produces including weekly drum and dance classes and the annual multi-day music, art and dance festival– SLYFEST– as well as his audio production work in association with Ripe Audio at Nights Of Fire, Bidwell Park, Larkin Square and Buffalo Ironworks.


Connor Caso is a Lewiston, NY native who grew up at Artpark.  As a visual artist with a performance art background, he has received professional training in mime, puppetry and theater.  Currently, Connor holds a BFA in musical and theater arts from Niagara University. He His performances include She Love’s Me, Lady Windemere’s Fan and Chigaco.  Over the past two years, he has lectured on the art of puppetry and given workshops on mask making.  His artwork has been featured in exhibitions at the NACC and Artpark.


Thank you to our SUPPORTERS

The Artpark Bridges program is supported by: 

Joe and Pam Priest, WGRZ Channel 2 and TEGNA Foundation, Teresa Williams, Thomas Donahower, Joseph Certo, Marla and Jeffrey Williams, Betty Szatkowski, Anthony Cipolla, Paulette M. Crooke, Roger Trevino, Joe Brown, Nancy DiBacco, Janice and Michael Vitch, Mary Powell, Kelly Turner, Greg Schlaich, Jerome P. Brydges and Family, David Barnes, Michele O. Heffernan, Jean Gaulin, Mike Schott, Maureen Schmitt, Thomas B. Burrows, Maureen Schmitt, Chester Spivey, Nick Langworthy, Adam Burns, Susan Royal, Senator Robert G. Ortt, Carol Calato, Michael Tunkey, Melissa Brydges, Margaret Nucci, Kelly Schultz, Glenn Hart, George Tysowsky, Erin Turner, Eric White, Elizabeth Brydges, Donna & JT Tomkins, Dave & Susan Wedekindt, Carol Mack, Barbara Rizzo, Andrew Brydges, Suzanne Diffine