Gerald O'Grady

In the 1970s, as few in the Western New York art community could forget, Buffalo was a hotbed for experimentation in the nascent field of media arts. The city's reputation then and now as an incubator for adventurous creative minds and cultural movements may not have come to be without the contribution of one key figure. Gerald O'Grady, the founder of the University at Buffalo's Center for Media Study and the non-profit Media Study/Buffalo, whose influence remains everywhere apparent in Buffalo's visual arts community and far beyond.

“Literacy's been with us now since the nineteenth century and is pretty much accepted to be a universal thrust. My own theory is that we should move towards what I call `mediacy.' It's a political issue: one cannot participate in society unless one can use the channels or codes of communication that are current in the time that one lives. ”

His concept of the wide-ranging effects and possibilities for "new media" was universal in scope, presciently forecasting that with the advent of film, video and television cameras, broadcast industries and computer technologies there was to be a dramatic change in the way people throughout the world would receive information, do business and communicate with each other. He was particularly sensitive to the need for artists to be supported and to work with the advanced thinkers of the scientific communities to encourage cross-fertilization of ideas that would enable the flourishing of the new art forms.

He established three new organizations, for all of which he simultaneously served as Director: (1) The Educational Communications Center at SUNY at Buffalo that served all of the media production and classroom exhibition needs of 128 departments and included management of the Public Radio Station, a studio transmitting engineering and business courses to industries on cable television, and the foreign language laboratory; (2) The Center for Media Study, an academic department that offered undergraduate and graduate degrees in film, video and digital production and in media interpretation; and (3) Media Study/Buffalo, a regional community development center that provided access to equipment, workshops and nightly exhibition of media to the Buffalo community.

Burchfield Penney Executive Directory, Anthony Bannon, praising O'Grady for his role in fostering the careers of countless curators and artists who went on to build impressive resumes of their own, noted that, "O'Grady's influence is worldwide, recently establishing centers for visual learning in China and South America. These leaders continue to pass along a passion for and belief in new ways of making sound, image, word and meaning. A good number of artists, too, were influenced by the liberation of this new way of seeing and using image and sound."