In 2014, the artist purchased the former Immaculate Conception Church at
150 Edward Street, where it meets Elmwood. After three years of stabilizing the
structure and adapting the interior for
his purposes, Maher is ready to unveil
the building as a project space and training center. Entitled the Society for the
Advancement of Construction Related
Arts (SACRA), Maher’s training program
is undertaken in collaboration with the
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo Public Schools, and the Department of
Social Services. Through this program,
adult students will learn skills they need
for employment—such as carpentry and
woodworking—and, even more important, learn to use their imaginations to
solve interesting problems.
Maher has already invited some University at Buffalo architecture students
into the space, which is lined with
ornate mixed-media constructions. At
its core (the former church transept)
is a monumental black hollow sculpture, big enough to hold rooms where
classes could be taught and workshops
held. Just as Maher does with the Fargo
House, students will inhabit what they
Also like Fargo, parts of the ceiling
of the church have been stripped away,
revealing the multiple layers that make
up the structure (Maher is quick to note
that the formerly damaged roof has been
rebuilt and is now completely sound).
It is interesting to imagine what kind
of creative builders will emerge from
this new program, but construction is an
area where creativity and the ability to
reuse and restore what has been discarded or damaged are valuable skills.
Look for announcements for a formal
opening of Assembly House 150 sometime this fall. In the meantime, visit
assemblyhouse150.org for more information.
Elizabeth Licata is editor of Spree.
Spotlight/Assembly House 150: when a church becomes
a working sculpture
BY ELIZABETH LICATA
Artist/architect Dennis Maher is probably best known for his Fargo House, a deconstructed,
reassembled, and intricately embellished West Side residence that, incredibly, the artist still
inhabits. Fargo House has been toured by hundreds, featured in the New York Times, and has its
own website as a constantly mutating construction. Maher, who also teaches in the University
at Buffalo’s architecture department, had always intended Fargo House to be a laboratory for
other artists and artisans who could also briefly inhabit the house, making their own mark on it
and learning a different way to think about construction in the process. Maher now has a much
larger building to work with.
The former Immaculate Conception Church is becoming a project space and classrrom.