Creating Art While Exploring the History and Architecture of Buffalo

Darwin D Martin House MED RES

The Darwin Martin House in Watercolor by Dana Saylor

Move over, Leonardo! The next great master may just be among us. Well, probably not. But that isn’t the point of a new series of art courses being taught by local artist and historian Dana Saylor.

Art in the World,” her name for the classes, comes from the idea of a “strong sense of place.” To me, it seems like a great way to relieve stress by being “present” and engrossed in the world around us. In other words, we might benefit by learning to stop and draw the roses — or pillars, or trees, or lampposts as the case may be.

In her words, the course is about teaching students “to draw the world around them, in pencil, pen and ink, and watercolor,” and it is open to adults and mature children of all skill levels. The location for the classes varies, each exploring a unique spot in the city with its own rich history.

While Dana has been an artist all of her life, it’s only in the last three years that she has taken the leap to architectural illustration — informed by her research on buildings and becoming a historic preservationist. In fact, the idea for the series came together after an art class Ms. Saylor herself took during the 22nd Congress for the New Urbanism — or CNU:22 — which took place here in Buffalo last summer.

There may be no one more uniquely qualified to teach such classes than Dana. Her passion for Buffalo’s urban landscape, her love of history, and her artistic talent all come together in delivering an enriching experience for participants.

I, myself, decided to try my long-dormant artistic hand at some architectural drawing at the most recent “Art in the World” event which took place at the Colonel Ward Pumping Station. Located on the premises near the entrance to LaSalle Park on the Niagara River, the class began with a brief history lesson and tour by the facility’s superintendent Patrick Martin. We learned how preliminary work on the plant began in

Inside the Colonel Ward Pumping Station.

Inside the Colonel Ward Pumping Station.

1907, and that — after delays caused by a partial collapse in 1909 — it finally came online in 1915. I found parts of the complex to be surprisingly whimsical for this type of public works project. The detailed lampposts lining the mezzanine provided great points of reference for perspective drawing, and the massive, arched windows let in plenty of light. I must say, the interior of the engine room with all of its detail and geometry was a fun challenge to draw.

At the end of the class, Dana left us with a few words of wisdom. She advised us to keep a small sketchbook and fountain pen handy so that we could take a few minutes a day to pause and draw our environments or objects around us. It’s great for practice and perhaps just what the doctor ordered to ease an anxious mind.

Dana’s next classes will be at the Darwin Martin House on Tuesday, March 24th from 10 AM to 1 PM and at Louis Sullivan’s Guaranty building on Saturday, March 28th from 12 PM to 3 PM.

Her artwork can be found at She will also be featured in a solo art show at Merge Restaurant in July as well as a solo show at the Western New York Book Arts Center in September, and her historic research work can be found on her website

I'll keep my day job, for now.

I’ll keep my day job, for now.

A closer look at the architecture.

A closer look at the architecture.


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