Our Mission & History

Located in Buffalo’s historic Market Arcade Complex, CEPA is a contemporary photography and visual arts center with impact in both local and national communities. With three galleries of changing exhibits and events, multimedia public art installations, arts education programs, and an open-access darkroom and digital photo lab, CEPA creates a vibrant presence in the heart of downtown Buffalo.

Our Mission at CEPA

CEPA promotes photographic and related media artists of all levels, supporting the arts community through exhibitions, education, and critical public access to image-making resources. CEPA provides individuals, schools, and nonprofits with workshops, classes, and community spaces that are accessible to all ages, abilities, and incomes.

Our Vision at CEPA

To be an incubator of artistic creation where excellence in programming drives connection with art as an essential facet of life and community.

Our Shared Values at CEPA


We strive to present unique exhibitions and arts education programming of the highest quality.


We encourage creative exploration, presenting alternative
ways of seeing and perceiving the world through
traditional and experimental modes of photography.


We work to forge ties between diverse interests,
viewpoints, and influences, welcoming people of
all ages, races, genders, and abilities.

Forward Thinking

We lead by example, showcasing and supporting
contemporary visual artists and artistry.


We proactively seek opportunities for
community connection through partnerships.

Underground Gallery - CEPA Gallery - Buffalo NY

The History of CEPA

Originally incorporated as the Center for Exploratory and Perceptual Arts to serve as a community darkroom and exhibition space, CEPA Gallery was founded during the Alternative Space Movement in May 1974 by recent graduates of the University of Buffalo.

Throughout its history, CEPA has strived to reflect the creative priorities for working artists, while growing to accommodate the educational and social needs of Western New York’s diverse community. Over the years, CEPA has evolved into a nationally recognized arts center that is truly international in scope, but regional in spirit. It is now one of the oldest and largest not-for-profit photography-based arts centers in the United States.

CEPA remains dedicated to photography and the photo-related and electronic arts, and has developed its programs and opportunities to provide working artists, urban youth, and other individuals with the necessary programs and facilities for the production and reception of contemporary art.

Download CEPA at 30 for a detailed history of our first 30 years.

Our Commitment to Diversity

CEPA is committed to inclusiveness and works to forge ties between diverse communities and individuals. CEPA serves traditionally underrepresented artists, audiences, and youths. We aim to promote art and culture as essential tools of citizenship and a critical facet of building community. The high costs of many art exhibitions and programs make the arts inaccessible to a broad swath of Buffalonians, an issue that CEPA actively addresses by making our galleries free and open to the public. Low-income students have access to high-caliber programming from CEPA through a fund we maintain to support them.

CEPA defines diversity broadly (by age, cultural identity, ethnicity, gender identity, sexuality, geography, media interpretation) and is committed to creating unique opportunities for artists and audiences to interact and engage in conversations around sensitive issues that affect WNYers. The central location of our Main Street Galleries ensures access to internationally celebrated exhibitions and award-winning educational programming. Our reimagined Big Orbit Satellite and Field Darkroom projects will provide many neighborhood-based platforms to engage diverse county residents.

CEPA is an equal opportunity and affirmative action employer actively dedicated to diversity and placemaking in the arts. We are proud to offer young creatives access to paid opportunities, including entry-level job training, teaching, and internships. We also provide student stipends and adjust costs to ensure accessible education programs. Each of these opportunities serves to open a pipeline into the cultural world for those who may never have thought it was achievable.