Sustainability through Autonomy, Safety, Ownership, and Adaptability: A Qualitative Case Study of Locust Street Art in Buffalo, NY

Darlene García Torres, SUNY College at Buffalo


The activities of community arts exist in a realm outside of the K-12 school environment. In this paper, I examine and present my motivations for pursuing this topic of research, provide a brief history of community arts, and describe some of the actions that have defined the field since the early 20th century. Various research studies detailing the economic, and health and wellness benefits of community arts initiatives on a diverse range of populations provide a rationale for sustaining the field. Interviews, observation, and document analysis are the data collection methods used to investigate and discover the factors influencing the sustainability of one of the longest running community arts organizations in the United States: Locust Street Art (formerly named MollyOlga) in Buffalo, NY. Analyzing data through complexity theory, findings of this case study reveal that community participation and support is a key factor in Locust Street Art’s sustainability, in addition to the organization’s characterization as a family business, creativity in fundraising, and adaptation to change. This paper also presents implications of the findings for arts education in other contexts, such as the effect of longer time periods devoted to the studio practice that may not be available in a K-12 art classroom. Additionally, recommendations for future research are provided, including a recommendation for studies of community arts organizations with different economic structures and recommendations for studies of other sustainable community arts organizations.