Big Reveal: New African American Cultural Center

Plans were unveiled yesterday for a new and expanded African American Cultural Center (AACC). The new facility will be constructed at the north end of the AACC’s current location site at 350 Masten Avenue along Glenwood Avenue to replace the existing 77-year-old building. The existing center will be demolished once the projected construction of the new building is completed by 2026.

CJS Architects of Buffalo will lead the design and planning for the proposed state-of-the-art building featuring large administrative and programming spaces in addition to a new youth theater.

The Phase One project will be constructed on the north end of the site along Glenwood Avenue to replace the functions of the existing deteriorating facility. The new Phase One project will be a one-story 11,300 sq. ft. building and will house the new Children’s Theater and will seat 120 patrons. The new facility will also provide support spaces, administrative offices, multipurpose classroom spaces and a dance studio. Upon completion of the Phase One project, the existing AACC building will be demolished to make room for Phase Two construction.

In 2026, with the demolition of the existing center, a second phase building will be developed as an addition to the Phase One structure featuring a new state-of-the-art, 250-seat Paul Robeson Theater. The new Phase Two facility will accommodate approximately 25,700 sq. ft. of expanded program directly south of (and attached to) the Phase One facility.

An outdoor performance park is located at the south end of the site providing an opportunity to create an active and exciting street presence at the corner of Masten Avenue and East Utica Streets. The dramatic overhang of the multipurpose / banquet space creates an outdoor “porch” fronting on the park that can also function as an outdoor performance stage.

The AACC is establishing the Agnes Bain Cultural Arts Fund for the new building capital campaign. The Fund Drive will be dedicated to the memory of Ms. Agnes Bain who passed in 2020 after serving 41 years as the Executive Director of the AACC.  Ms. Bain was beloved for her leadership in using the arts to promote cultural enrichment, social justice, and educational achievement especially for the city’s Eastside. During her many years of service she was a role model that exemplified excellence and an unwavering commitment to serve and uplift poor families and at-risk youth.  

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