Community Arts & After School Programs

Michelle Obama - Community Arts and After School Programs - Arts Education - CEPA Gallery - Buffalo NY

Recognized by Michelle Obama with a 2013 National Arts & Humanities Youth Program Award, CEPA’s nationally celebrated community arts programs create opportunities for children throughout Buffalo and Western New York to come together and learn in a unique and supportive arts education environment.

Under the instruction of our teaching artists, students of all ages engage in film photography, digital photography, pinhole cameras, darkroom printing, digital graphic design, animation, creative writing and bookmaking. CEPA is constantly reaching out and forming new friendships. Some of our incredible partners include Best Self Behavioral Health, Get Fokus’d Productions, The Martin House, People Inc., Community Services for Every 1, Clean Air Coalition,  Person Centered Services, Explore Buffalo, YWCA, Open Buffalo, Valley Community Association, Autism Services and so many more.

Photo Caption: Jose Lagares, 18, center, gets a hug from first lady Michelle Obama, left, as Center for Exploratory and Perceptual Arts, Inc., Education Director Lauren Tent of Buffalo, NY, watches at right, at the White House in Washington, Friday, Nov. 22, 2013, where Lagares and Tent were presented with the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Due to COVID-19, Big Orbit Project Space is temporarily closed to the public.
As of August 8, 2020, CEPA Gallery (including the FLUX Gallery, the darkroom, and the digital photo lab) has reopened with restrictions.

In order to continue to serve our members and the public while adhering to social distancing and other safety guidelines during these unprecedented times, all other activities are currently online only.

After School Arts Programs

CEPA’s after school arts programs connect students to each other and to the world of photography. Together, we can put together a customized after school arts program that suits the needs of youth, community, and budget. Here are just some of the programs offered to students as a part of our community arts and after school programs.

Young Perspectives
Young Perspectives After School Program - Community Arts Programs - Arts Education - CEPA Gallery - Buffalo NY

Young Perspectives

An Introduction to Photography for Ages 8–12

CEPA’s introductory program to the art of photography, helping students learn how to express themselves in a new way, and they discover that what they have to say is important—whether it’s said using words or images.

Participating students are encouraged to share their ideas and interpretations of historic and contemporary photography while learning the essential elements of art—composition, line, balance, texture, perspective, shape, form, space, rhythm and contrast. Even though these concepts are often new, students think about them and how they transfer to other areas of learning as they capture their world using black-and-white film cameras, digital cameras, and pinhole cameras.

Students then learn how chemistry works to develop photographs as they watch their images come to life in CEPA’s darkroom. They also learn to manipulate and change the appearance and meaning of their photographs using digital graphic design techniques in CEPA’s digital photo lab, and how to write artist statements and creative reflections to further explore their ideas and visual interpretations.

As they visit sites throughout Buffalo with their cameras, students learn more about photography, their city and environment, and each person’s unique perspective of the world.

Photography Works
Photography Works After School Program - Community Arts Programs - Arts Education - CEPA Gallery - Buffalo NY

Photography Works

A Mentoring Program

Photography Works is a year-long program that will provides 10 students who have a serious interest in photography, with in depth instruction and mentoring in a variety of photo-related careers.

As they explore and interact with professionals, students will:

  • Meet working photographers
  • Assist in teaching youth classes at CEPA
  • Assist in photo shoots
  • Gain advanced camera, darkroom and digital skills with unlimited access to CEPA’s darkroom, computer lab and studio lighting equipment

There is no fee for this program, and upon completion the students will get to keep the cameras provided. Students need to commit to meeting weekly after school for the year, but will also be expected to meet at different times with mentors, assist on photoshoots or help with teaching classes (paid opportunities) on days that work with their schedule. Visit our Photography Works page for information about the 2023-24 class.

Our Sponsors

The 2022–2023 Photography Works Program is supported by:

The 2021–2022 Photography Works Program is supported by:

The 2019–2020 Photography Works Program is supported by:

Mapping Community
Mapping Community After School Program - Community Arts Programs - Arts Education - CEPA Gallery - Buffalo NY

Mapping Community

An Interactive Exploration for Ages 12–16

CEPA’s program created to expose Buffalo’s youth to its rich history and culture.

Mapping Community encourages in-depth exploration and photographic interpretation through research, site visits, and interaction with community leaders and historians.

Past Explorations

Mapping Community themes are customized and largely driven by teachers, students or the community group we are partnering with. Take a look at some of our past explorations below.

Mapping Community After School Program - Community Arts Programs - Arts Education - CEPA Gallery - Buffalo NY

Discovering the East Side

Participating youth explored the rich history and architecture of Buffalo’s East Side. With digital cameras in hand, they visited the Colored Musicians Club, the Nash House, the Michigan Street Baptist Church and the African American Cultural Center as they learned about each site’s historical significance from such community leaders as former Common Council President George Arthur and George Scott, Director of the Colored Musicians Club.

Mapping Community After School Program - Community Arts Programs - Arts Education - CEPA Gallery - Buffalo NY

Observing Olmsted

Participating youth visited Buffalo’s Olmsted Park System, photographing and writing personal reflections about their experience. A lecture and discussion with an expert from the Olmsted Parks Conservancy exposed them to the commonly unknown history of the parks, reinforcing the idea that they were designed for everyone to visit and enjoy.

Mapping Community After School Program - Community Arts Programs - Arts Education - CEPA Gallery - Buffalo NY

Waters of Destiny

Students used Google Maps to find their home and the closest body of water, then learned about the history, importance and beauty of Buffalo Creek, the Niagara River, Lake Erie, the Emerald Channel and Niagara Falls as they photographed their visits to Red Jacket Park, Canalside, Front Park, Broderick Park and Niagara Falls State Park.

Angel Barber - Photography Works 2020 - CEPA Gallery - Buffalo NY


Photography Works Student

“Being with CEPA art gallery has been very beneficial for me as photography is one of the most intriguing yet intimidating creative mediums that I am interested in. Photography Works has lessened the intimidation I’ve felt towards the medium with a breakdown of the technical side of the craft. Learning more about the technical side has helped me execute more expressive and abstract art that I wouldn’t have been able to produce otherwise. The most meaningful thing I’ve learned is how therapeutic photography can be and how the more in depth your knowledge is of the craft, the more your perception and aesthetic sense changes and strengthens”.

Get Involved with CEPA Community Arts & After School Programs

Community Arts and After School Programs - Arts Education - CEPA Gallery - Buffalo NY

Bring a CEPA arts program to your community for a unique learning experience.

To discuss how to get your students enrolled in our programs, including the Photography Works mentoring program, contact Lauren Tent, our Education Director: