When James Lombardo Jr., ’95, was studying business at Buffalo State, he was struck by the quality of his art major friends’ work—and also their dismissive attitude toward selling it.
“I may have only been 19 years old, but I knew their stuff was cool,” said Lombardo, who is now a New York City investment adviser and burgeoning art collector. Following his father’s death five years ago, Lombardo felt inspired to help the next generation of Buffalo State students learn how to make a living through their art.
“My father was an excellent support system, supporting me in all I did. I’m confident not everyone has that,” Lombardo said. “I want to augment students’ creativity with practical business acumen to foster a successful career.”
In 2010, he established the James P. Lombardo Sr. Award for Excellence, which has benefited 10 art students each year since. The recipients, selected by Buffalo State visual arts faculty, have their work included in an exhibit in the Czurles-Nelson Gallery at the start of the fall semester. At the exhibit, the students have the unique opportunity to meet with Lombardo's friends and colleagues.
“This is baptism by fire. I want them to have to explain their work and try to sell it,” Lombardo said. “There has to be a sales component to making a living as an artist. You can’t just be a wallflower.”
Additionally, the students get to travel to New York City for a weekend in October. During the trip, the students attend a reception dinner, visit multiple museums, participate in a panel discussion with working artists, and network with gallery professionals.
Lombardo covers 100 percent of the students’ travel expenses. He also has arranged for some of his investment clients who live in Buffalo to meet with the student artists prior to their trip.
“If one piece of art resonates with a client, I may have started someone’s career,” he said, “and that’s super exciting.”
Across the Visual Arts V: The James P. Lombardo Sr. Award for Excellence Exhibition runs through Thursday, September 5, in the Czurles-Nelson Gallery in Upton Hall.
The featured artists are: Eric Rose, wood/furniture; Ashley Vining, metals/jewelry; Nicholas Butler, photography; Gregory Velazquez, printmaking; Julia Bottoms, art education; Iran Carr: sculpture; Jessica Widmer, ceramics; and Dana Fischer: Communication Design.
Hours are Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. A free reception with the artists will be held September 5 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. in the gallery.